Conservation Debate: World Wildlife Federation Adopts “People-Centric” Model For Tiger Conservation

Just last week we reported that what appears to be a stunning conservation success may actually have a dark lining.

low angle photography of high rise building
India is both densely populated and home to most of the world’s free roaming tigers. Photo by PRAKASAM R on

Both India and Nepal have reported surges in their wild tiger population. They are one of a few nations with wild tigers to record significant surges. The two countries have almost doubled the numbers of the giant felines in their nations.

But the two nations have accomplished this by what is called a “tiger-centric” approach. That is human modification of landscape in the perceived best interests of the tigers. Recent criticism suggests we don’t know the tigers best interests very well. Our perceptions may not be aiding other endangered species. .

The long-awaited Liberty Canyon overpass is under construction in Phase 1. The overpass is expected to provide a crossing over the 101 Freeway and promote genetic diversity and limit traffic fatalities.

Recent critics are calling for an end to cutting or burning grasslands and uprooting trees. They want a “mosaic” approach that recognizes the needs of other wildlife. A more subtle approach that recognizes the different ways in which animals interact. Perhaps using a scalpel rather than a chainsaw may be an analogy.

Now the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) is calling for another new approach a “people-centric” report. This may at first seem a poor choice of words. After all, hunting, hide harvesting, kidnapping for circuses, land-clearing, and dismemberment for traditional medicines may all be considered “people-centric” even if they don’t fit most definitions of conservation.

close up photography of tiger
Tigers pose special conservation challenges. Their size and potential for conflict with humans are two. Their need for large personal space and large prey are two more. Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on

But the WWF is essentially turning that idea on its ear by recognizing the Big Tiger In The Room. Any form of successful conservation will require a recognition of the legitimate needs of the populations involved. Tigers now live in some of the most densely populated areas on earth and the needs of their human neighbors must be considered.

As they say it on their website:

“Tiger landscapes are home not only to an incredible array of biodiversity but also to local communities who depend on this same land for their livelihood, culture, traditions and social existence. 

Tigers live in some of the most densely populated regions of the world and finding effective ways to partner with people living and working in these areas is vital for the long-term recovery of wild tigers.

In other words, the goal must be finding ways in which tigers and people can coexist to their mutual advantage. After all wildlife tourism can be a boon to communities. Animals such as tigers also have cultural and social significance. Finding ways to increase cooperation and minimize hazardous conflict needs to be the new goal, according to the WWF.

It is not far from the stated goals of most nations grappling with serious conservation issues. Governments understand the need for partnersship, the WWF says there is a lack of practical guidance and experience on how to implement cooperation.

Conservationists and governments have been inching toward this type of modern approach. In the United States the Liberty Canyon overcrossing is an example of government/community conservation action. CalTrans, California’s transportation agency, actively works to build under and over crossings for animals to use. These actions require public imput and a balance of the needs of people and animals. Many regions have government or private sources of reparations for livestock lost to predators. The WWF intends to expand that idea.

“On the ground examples in different tiger range countries have shown that communities are key to successful tiger conservation. While there is consensus among governments and conservation organisations on the need to engage with communities that live in and around protected areas, there is a lack of practical guidance on how to work with these communities..” according to Emmanuel Rondeau of the WWF.

But humans are humans and there is always human darkness. Recently, we reported on frantic efforts by Thai authorities to rescue an injured tiger with only three legs. The animal was thought to be in severe danger from poachers.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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