Sites in India, Nepal awarded for doubling tiger population

New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS): India's Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) and Nepal's Bardia National Park have won this year's TX2 Award for doubling the population of wild tigers since 2010.

Nepal's Khata Forest Conservation Area - which secures transboundary connectivity for tigers between Nepal and India - also won the award for Tiger Conservation Excellence.

Congratulating the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve on the achievement, Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav tweeted: "The award is a testimony to the dedication of field staff in protecting our tigers and policies of the government of India for tiger conservation."

The awards were presented by the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS), Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Global Tiger Forum (GTF), IUCN's Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP), Panthera, UNDP, The Lion's Share, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and WWF.

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of all 13 Tiger Range countries committed to double the global population of wild tigers by 2022, the award acknowledges the efforts by the state governments and the local communities, who have played one of the most important roles to turn a relatively new tiger reserve into one of the source populations of tigers in India.

Tigers numbered perhaps 100,000 a century ago in India but dropped precipitously to as few as 3,200 in 2010.

Their numbers have slowly recovered to approximately 3,900, based on estimates from tiger range countries compiled in 2016.

The Nilgiri Biosphere Landscape that the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) is part of, is currently the home to the largest tiger population in the world. Sathyamangalam was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2013 and now has about 80 individuals in the area.

This tiger reserve is an important link between the Nilgiris and Eastern Ghats landscape. It is connected to other well-established tiger habitats like Mudumalai Tiger reserve, Bandipur Tiger reserve and BR Hills tiger reserve.

The adjoining areas like Erode forest division, Coimbatore forest division and Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary are also emerging as important tiger habitats, creating a mosaic that allows the big cats to easily move in search of food and new territory, a release from the World Wide Fund India (WWF India) said.

Secretary-General and CEO, WWF India, Ravi Singh said, "The TX2 Awards celebrate the remarkable contributions made by government bodies, NGOs, and local communities to strengthen tiger conservation. To honour a recently notified Tiger Reserve like Sathyamangalam with the award is a step forward to inspire others to work towards preserving this magnificent species and its habitats."

In September this year, tiger range countries will convene at the second Global Tiger Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, to assess progress towards the ambitious TX2 goal - double the number of tigers in the wild - and identify tiger conservation priorities for the next 12 years.

The Khata Forest Conservation Area in Nepal, the Khata corridor where community-based conservation efforts, including a network of 74 community forests covering 202 sq km, have secured safe passage for tigers between Bardia National Park in Nepal and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India.

Over the last five years, 46 individual tigers have been detected using the corridor with other iconic and threatened mammal species, including the Asian elephant and the greater one-horned rhino.

Lead of WWF's Tigers Alive Initiative, Stuart Chapman said: "The commitments made in 2010 demonstrate what can be achieved through long term commitments to tiger conservation. The dedication of field teams, conservation partners and communities living with tigers are behind these extraordinary results."

Sugoto Roy, Coordinator of the Integrated Tiger Habitat Programme, IUCN, said: "Successful tiger conservation involves continuous management and improvement of habitats at the landscape scale, rigorous monitoring of tigers and their prey, and working extensively with local communities. All of these criteria have been met with excellence, giving us these globally significant results."

The TX2 goal is one of the most ambitious conservation goals ever set for a single species.



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