Tiger deaths related to poaching has reached an all-time high in India, according to a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Following it, the WWF has called upon tiger-range governments to crackdown on wildlife poaching and snaring that is threatening wildlife across Asia, especially the world’s remaining wild tigers, which number only around 3,900.
“Snares are dangerous, insidious and quickly becoming a major contributor to the wave of extinction that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia – and tigers are being swept up in this crisis. All efforts to recover wild tigers are now imperiled by snaring on a massive scale,” said Mike Baltzer, WWF Tigers Alive, on the occasion of the Global Tiger Day on 29 July.
"We cannot over emphasize the need for strong government commitment and investment in rangers who are on the frontline of conservation, clearing snares and apprehending those who set them," Baltzer added.
Electrocution and poisoning of the big cats have also been recorded across tiger habitats. With wildlife traps and electric wires embedded deep into the ground or hid among debris, the detection of these devices are often difficult and missed by forest guards who manually patrol our forests to ensure protection of our wildlife, according to a statement.
Easy to make from widely available material such as bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are deadly traps that are fast becoming the plague of Asia’s forests. Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade, which is now reaching an estimated $20 billion annually Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to reach 20 billion per year, which makes wildlife trafficking the world's 4th largest illicit trade, after narcotics, human trafficking and trade in counterfeit goods, the statement added.
In the rare occasion that a wild tiger is able to escape a snare, it suffers debilitating injuries that prevent it from hunting, eventually causing it to die of starvation or infection. In addition, snares maim or kill any animal that activates them thus dealing a double blow to wild tigers, by trapping the prey base they need to survive and reproduce.
Within the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only place on Earth where wild tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found in the same habitat, snare traps are estimated to have doubled between 2006 and 2014. The number of snare traps in Sumatra recorded in 2013 and 2014 are doubled, when compared to the preceding eight years, suggesting a higher number of poachers in the area. Yet, many of such critical habitats lack adequate resources for protection. In nearby Rimbang Baling, one of several protected areas in Sumatra, only 26 rangers patrol over 1,400 square kilometres, an area equivalent to nearly twice the size of New York City.
Local communities also play an integral role in the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. In India, approximately 45 million people live in forest-fringe areas and more than 300 million people are dependent on forests for subsistence and cash livelihoods. Engagement of local communities is thus a key constituent in conservation efforts and can lead the way in helping reduce poaching and managing human-tiger interactions in the country.
In 2010, tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – TX2, or the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022. Since 2016, the long trend of decline in global wild tiger numbers has halted for now and may even begin to rise, signaling a beacon of hope for global tiger conservation, the statement added.