Tigers occupy a site because there is prey present. They persist in the long term due to habitat connectivity at the landscape scale. As this connectivity breaks down, otherwise healthy tiger populations become isolated, are increasingly in contact with people, and their numbers typically decline and disappear from that area. The devastating decline of the global tiger population by 97% over the 20th Century was in large part brought about by such habitat fragmentation and loss. However, the speed and scale of these historic forces are set to dramatically increase over the next 30 years through unprecedented investments in linear infrastructure spanning the entire tiger range. Linear infrastructure poses significant threats to the ecological health of tiger landscapes through gradual fragmentation and loss of connectivity, and providing access to new areas.
As human populations rise rapidly, the pressure to produce more food and fiber from finite land and resources grows at an equal pace. The resulting rural landscapes become a patchwork of settlements, agriculture and crops, and interspersed with natural environment. And all linked via extensive transport infrastructure. The pace of economic growth across the tiger range 1 is expected to continue at speed. The region is already the global population center, and is rapidly becoming the largest economic and consumption zone and the home to the majority of the world’s middle class. The speed of economic development and resource demand mean that significant increases in road networks and economic corridors will be needed to serve the expansion. Remnant natural habitat in remote and trans-boundary areas is also increasingly sought after for development, access and extraction. It is these remote and previously inaccessible areas where the remaining 3,200 tigers currently reside.
Tiger survival is thus in an unenviable position up against fundamental human and economic development across its range. Finding the right balance and mutually agreeable actions and plans is therefore critical to achieving the dual objectives of tiger conservation and human development.
Considering the historical failure to protect core tiger areas and landscapes, it is vital to put in place long term infrastructure actions at both the site and national levels that ensure the persistence of tigers while fostering human and economic development.
To this end, WWF is working at a range of sites across the tiger range to support the maintenance of ecological corridors and landscape connectivity. The opportunity exists to demonstrate that the impending expansion of infrastructure does not have to proceed at the cost of tiger recovery and protection. Solutions exist but they need to be delivered. Indeed, the persistence of tigers across commodities landscapes and transport networks can be an indicator for the quality of development that emerges there. This presentation will give an overview of the current context of tiger recovery and the status of infrastructure and infrastructure planning across tiger landscapes. It will also show how WWF is currently responding to the challenges, and expose the deep gaps in our abilities to reconcile tiger recovery and national economic imperatives.
tiger, road mortality, WWF, habitat connectivity