Tigers used to roam across huge swathes of wilderness in south east Asia, prowling through tropical forests and grasslands. As apex predators in their ecosystem, tigers have very big territories, varying from 20-400km2 depending on the subspecies; but their landscapes are dramatically changing.
As people and nations develop their infrastructure, urban spaces and transport links, huge swathes of wilderness are no longer available for tigers.
But their survival can still be guaranteed.
Born Free’s Living with Tigers campaign has explored the history of the majestic, beautiful tiger and its revered importance to people. We have explained the threats that tigers face, as for so many threatened animals being persecuted by people and losing their habitat and prey. We have told sad truths, such as the tiger’s decline by 50% in only 20 years.
But we have also celebrated efforts to save the tiger, championed local people who dedicate their lives to tiger conservation, and showcased an amazing group of organisations working hard for tiger conservation in a large landscape in central India – the Satpuda Landscape Tiger Partnership (SLTP).
In this partnership, ‘landscape’ really is the key word. As the tiger’s landscape changes, it becomes increasingly essential for conservationists to think on this scale too. We need to work out how best to manage areas as multi-land use mosaics, comprising space for both people and wildlife within, making sure animals have the habitat, food and freedom that they need, while also ensuring peoples’ safety and livelihoods.
We also need to think of the big picture at such scales, as no isolated initiative is going to have the impact needed. Tiger conservation must consider forging links with those who can inform government policy, challenging industry and commercial developers, fighting illegal national and international trade, always implicating the close involvement of local people, and rolling out direct conservation actions on the ground.
With your continued support, Born Free’s SLTP plans to do all of this. “The very essence of SLTP is to bring together partners across the central Indian landscape to secure protected areas and corridors and address threats and concerns at a landscape level,” explains Poonam Dhanwatey, Co-Founder of the Tiger Research and Conservation Trust, one of the partners of Living with Tigers. “Collaboration between various partners with diverse strengths coming together as a network and ensuring participation of the locals is the only way forward for tiger conservation in India.”
In a world where a growing number of people seek to live and travel safely through the tiger’s ancient wilderness, we need to think big to ensure its future.
The wild landscapes of India look quite different now, but they can belong to people and tigers alike.