The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced (24 November, 2009) a report revealing that the last remaining population of Siberian tigers, the world’s biggest cat and a living symbol for the people of Russia, has likely declined significantly due to the rising tide of poaching, unusual weather and habitat loss.
The report which was released by the Siberian Tiger Monitoring Program revealed that a recent tiger survey over a representative part of the tiger’s range showed a 40 percent decline in numbers from a 12-year average.
The surveys are conducted at 16 monitoring sites scattered across tiger range in an area, which covers 23,555 square kilometres, (9,000 square miles) representing 15-18 percent of the existing tiger habitat in Russia. Only 56 tigers were counted at these monitoring sites. Deep snows this past winter may have forced tigers to reduce the amount they travelled, making them less detectable, but the report notes a 4-year trend of decreasing numbers of tigers.
The total number of Siberian tigers across their entire range was estimated at approximately 500 individuals in 2005, having recovered from less than 30 animals in the late 1940s. Dr. Dale Miquelle, of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russian Far East Program, said that despite the sobering results the “trend can be reversed if immediate action is taken.”
Russian scientists and non-government organizations are recommending changes in law enforcement regulations, improvements in habitat protection, and a strengthening of the protected areas network to reverse the downward trend.
Source and further reading: Wildlife Conservation Society