Thursday, April 14, 2016

Global Wild Tiger Population Rises By 22%

Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park

It is the first time in almost a hundred years that there has been an increase in the global tiger population. The number of wild tigers has risen to 3,890 in April this year from 3,200 in 2010, indicating an almost 22 percent increase. This significant increase has been credited to several factors, including increases in tiger populations of Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Russia, enhanced surveys and improved protection. Out of all the tiger range countries, India alone has recorded a rise of over 500 tigers during a period of six years and continues to be home to the highest number of tigers. According to Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, the rise of tiger populations offers a "great hope and shows that we can save species and their habitats when governments, local communities, and conservationists work together." Although the total number of tigers is 3,890, that figure could be more because Myanmar still has to announce its tiger numbers. In 2010, it had just 85 wild tigers. The "Global Wild Tiger Status" report has not included the country's figure in the global figure for this year. The updated minimum figure is accumulated from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) data and countries' latest national tiger surveys. Union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar indicated that Rs. 380 crores have been allocated to Project Tiger in the current fiscal year, which is an unsurpassed high and shows that the government of India is committed to tiger conservation.
Latest figures of the global tiger population
The recent global tiger population figures were released Monday on the eve of the Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation. The three-day conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was the latest step in the Global Tiger Initiative that began with the 2010 Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was agreed six years ago to increase tiger numbers by 2022; a goal known as Tx2. During the conference, countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam reported on their progress towards the goal and committed to the next steps. More than 700 tiger experts, donors, managers, scientists, and other shareholders gathered at the conference to discuss tiger conservation-related issues which included landscape conservation and habitat management, tiger reintroduction, overseeing protocols, anti-poaching strategies, modern tools and technology for monitoring, resource mobilization, and networking. In addition, ministers and government officials also participated along with representatives of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which have snow leopards.
Tiger in captivity

It is indeed an amazing news that the global tiger population has increased by 22 percent in six years. However, figures indicate that India shown the highest population of tigers than any other country in Asia. This is especially true for Cambodia, China, Laos, and Vietnam which have the lowest numbers of tigers in the world. The drastic decline in tiger populations of these three countries is attributed to a wide range of factors such as indiscriminate poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, which continue to take toll on populations of wild animals throughout Southeast Asia. It is highly recommended that captive breeding and reintroduction of tigers, most notably Indochinese and South China tigers, should be implemented in these countries followed by improvement in tackling of illegal activities such as poaching and the wildlife trade. The tiger is not only considered a flagship species in India and other Asian countries, but is also considered a keystone species that plays a significant role in maintaining balance in the ecosystem of its native range. Therefore, saving the tiger and making sure that its global population continues to expand across Asia would also result in saving and ensuring the survival of other animals that the tiger shares its habitat with.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

First Contact Made with Sumatran Rhinoceros on Borneo in Four Decades

Sumatran rhinoceros

Environmentalists have recently made physical contact with the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros on the Indonesian island of Borneo for the first time in forty years. The animal was caught in a pit trap close to mining operations and plantations in East Kalimantan province, where the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) stated it was struggling to survive. The female rhino, believed to be six years old, is in a temporary enclosure and will be later transported to a safer habitat on the island. The contact came after environmentalists found out in 2013 that the rhino was not extinct in Borneo when camera traps captured images of the animals. The capture of this rhino was a combined effort between environment ministry officials, the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia, and the WWF.
Sumatran rhinoceros being lifted out of a pit trap in Borneo.

This is truly one of the biggest news for wildlife conservation. Not only that the Sumatran rhinoceros is found to not be extinct on the island of Borneo, but now it has come into physical contact for the first time in four decades. This magnificent species of rhinoceros is one of the smallest of five known species of rhinos in the world and the only Asian rhino with two horns. It is also the only living rhino with long hair and was once found throughout Borneo before its population became decimated by poaching and expansion of mining and plantation operations across the island. The WWF estimates that there are fewer than hundred of these rhinos remaining in the wild. There are only a few ample populations still existing, most of them on the island of Sumatra. This recent discovery of the Sumatran rhinoceros made via physical contact is an indication that the species must be strictly protected by any means necessary. This includes properly controlling mining and plantation operations, making sure that they do not infringe on to their habitat. Furthermore, the population of this rhinoceros, along with its relative the Javan rhinoceros, must be closely monitored as these are amongst the most critically endangered of Asian rhinos. Poaching is another threat that has driven and continues to drive these magnificent animals to the brink of extinction, and should be dealt with seriously. Indonesia is one of the few places in the world famous for its rich biodiversity. That is, new species are being discovered and even those species that were once believed to have become extinct are being rediscovered. The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of them. However, the country's biodiversity is being severely depleted due to extensive human activities and serious action must be taken to prevent any further degradation of its natural treasures.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bison to Return to Europe's Forests as Part of Massive Rewilding Project

A female European bison wearing a radio collar

The European bison is the heaviest surviving wild land animal of Europe. Like its American relative, this gigantic beast suffered drastically in the hands of people over the course of history, due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat throughout its European homeland. By 1919, it was declared "Extinct in the Wild." Thankfully, captive breeding efforts has helped it make a comeback. The current population numbers 3000, making this bison rarer than the black rhinoceros. Now, initiatives of rewilding are bringing these animals back along with other large herbivores, such as semi-wild horses and cattle bred to resemble their extinct wild relatives. As part of the efforts to bringing these majestic animals back to their former haunts, four bison were released in the Netherlands' Maashorst Nature Reserve, with four due to be released in the Veluwe region next month. In addition, another herd of twenty bison is scheduled to be released in Romania in May.
Range of the European bison (Yellow- Holocene Range; Dark Green- Historical Range; Red- Relict 20th century populations 

The European bison has long been considered one of the most majestic creatures in Europe, whose range once extended eastwards to the Caucasus. In Europe, its range extended towards the Balkans and all the way to eastern France. However, as human populations expanded, the bison was pushed further towards the brink of extinction. Captive breeding and reintroduction efforts helped this animal return from extinction, most notably in the Bialowieza Forest in Poland. Then, during the 21st century, reintroductions across Europe were made in countries like France, Germany, Belarus, etc. where the bison had historically disappeared. Such efforts have been made and continue to be made by a Dutch trust called Rewilding Europe, whose main goal is to establish at least five wild herds of hundred bison by 2022 and an overall wild population of 1000 animals by 2032. The program has so far reintroduced more than thirty bison to Romania's Carpathian Mountains, where the animal is a symbol of national pride and economic renewal. In addition, the trust is also involved in projects in bringing back wild horses and cattle which had disappeared from Europe hundreds of years ago. These conservation initiatives would not only bring back the animals that had once disappeared from Europe, but also restore the continent's biodiversity from centuries past.

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