Photo Credit: Jean-Christophe Vié

Learning to live with tigers

13.04.2017

In thinking about tiger conservation, and as is the case with most species that IUCN tries to conserve with SOS, one must address species, human and habitat issues – and do so in an integrated way.

Tiger (Panthera tigris) (Endangered)
Credits : Jean-Christophe Vié

It is perfectly in line with SOS objective of “preserving threatened species, their habitat and the people depending on them”

The Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) was created in 2014 by IUCN and funded by the German Government through KfW Bank building on the successful SOS model making the most of IUCN particular niche and wide expertise.

As a sister initiative to SOS, it awards grants to conservation organisations following a competitive process, but, in this case, exclusively for tiger habitat conservation. Other main differences are that  ITCHP provides larger grants than SOS and governmental entities are eligible.

Both SOS and ITCHP have been created by Jean-Christophe Vié who oversees them, ensuring that both initiatives work closely together efficiently. Each of them has a dedicated Coordinator: Alessandro Badalotti for SOS and Sugoto Roy for the Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme.

Dr. Sugoto Roy explains the objectives of the ITHCP, saying “the entire 5-year programme has a value of € 20 million over a 6 year period. Most funding has already been committed and the programme currently has a portfolio of 11 projects across India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Indonesia [Sumatra].”

It is aligned with the objectives of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP) and its objectives are a subset of those, with associated indicators. It focuses on three broad areas within the GTRP. These can simply be described as:

 

1.The Species Conservation Aspect

This aspect focuses on species, in particular tiger, conservation. Activities range from equipping and training anti-poaching patrol staff and guard stations, monitoring tiger populations and their prey through remote camera traps and the securing of habitats outside of protected areas to ensure safe passage for tigers moving between different habitats.

 

2.Habitat Management Aspect

Here, conservation activities include improving the management status of protected areas, buffer zones and corridors through active habitat management, training and equipping of staff and reducing impacts from local communities on sensitive habitats in landscape complexes. The development and initiation of long-term management plans, including the gazetting of new reserves and sanctuaries also feature in some of our projects.

 

3.The Human Aspect

As the source of financing for this programme comes from a development agency within the German government, this is perhaps the most important aspect of the programme. There are a wide range of activities aimed at reducing the dependency of local communities on forest resources both within and outside of protected areas as well as mitigating Human-Tiger Conflicts.

This is done by providing alternative livelihoods through the development of business initiatives such as ecotourism. In addition local communities are given alternative sources of energy and food for livestock. Any resource use such as grazing and harvesting of forest products is made more sustainable by providing resources outside of conservation areas.

One particularly key aspect of working with local communities is to protect the rights of indigenous groups living in and around tiger habitats. Where traditional resources may be impacted by the implementation of a project, alternatives are developed through consultation and introduced into the project activities.

 

Integrated Actions and Project Design

Dr. Roy observes, “It should be noted that the three aspects above cannot act in isolation but interact with each other. For example local communities interact with tigers through livestock predation or attacks on people and often they kill tigers in retaliation. At the same time, local communities often hunt wild ungulates for food, thus reducing the prey availability for wild predators.

All ITHCP projects are required to have substantial components of each of the three main areas outlined above. This is what drives the design of the projects. The map in the photo gallery shows the location and size of accepted and proposed projects, together with information on the protected areas and key tiger habitats impacted by them. It shows that a broad expanse of high priority tiger habitats are encompassed in projects, which spread over protected areas, buffer zones and corridors. 

 

Looking Ahead

One of the main aims of the GTRP is to double tiger populations by 2022. There are some encouraging signs of recovery in various places and it is certainly ITCHP objective to build on these successes and create the conditions for new ones; with careful, landscape scale management, together with effective habitat protection and implementation of anti-poaching measures, growing tiger populations can be achieved in most of the areas highlighted on the map. However, human populations are also growing alongside, and conflicts will be inevitable. These need to be planned for now, and any mitigation measures need to be introduced.

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