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Behind the scene: thirty years work in summery!

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May 1, 2017 by Species Ecology

Behind the scene: thirty years work in summery!

Mohammed Ashraf

Scientific studies of tiger under the modern conceptual statistical framework began by a brilliant American biologist George Schaller in the early 1960s. His pioneering work in Kanha National Park in India was the major breakthrough because prior to Schaller’s work, much of the knowledge on wild tigers were based on anecdotal evidence of colonial hunter’s account. His seminal publication ‘The Deer and the Tiger’ in 1969 still serve as a fundamental backbone for the carnivore biologists working on tigers in South Asia. Major advancement of tiger ecology and conservation research followed between 1970 and 1980 under Smithsonian Tiger Ecology Project (USA) in Chitwan National Park in Nepal. During the 1990s, long-term ecological studies were pioneered by brilliant Indian biologist Ullas Karanth in Nagarahole National Park in India. Karanth pioneered the statistically valid camera-trap capture-recapture modeling method to estimate the population density of wild tigers thereby substantially improved our current knowledge base pertaining to the demographic, behavioral, ecological and allelic parameters of the wild Bengal tigers in the Indian subcontinent eco-region. Armed with these new scientific knowledge, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) USA delivered scientifically most sophisticated blueprint for wild tiger conservation action plan in 1997. This groundbreaking ‘Framework for Identifying High Priority Areas and Actions for the Conservation of Free Ranging Tigers’ is the culmination of thirty years of dedicated and laborious scientific studies undertaken by handful of wildlife scientists devoted to safeguard the dwindling wild tiger population across its range nations. The framework introduced a new concept of ecosystem based tiger conservation approach integrating the geographic information systems (GIS) utilities as one of the fundamental conservation tools to delineate the best suits of heterogeneous ecosystems that hold the highest probability for tiger’s long-term survival under the current and future threats. Another pioneering component of WWF-WCS framework was the holistic integration of ecological, demographic, behavioral and genetic differences of tigers in a suit of wild areas that best represents the range of ecological conditions in which they live. This modern framework was also a significant breakthrough and a departure from traditional taxonomy based putative sub-species conservation management approach which fails to recognize that tigers are uniquely defined by their ecological and demographic parameters. The framework’s principles and applications were based on sound science of wildlife ecology, mathematics and conservation biology: the disciplines in which satellite imagery, remote sensing and GIS are the fundamental components hence played significant contribution to the formulation of the tiger conservation framework. The framework identified seven most high-priority tiger conservation landscapes (TCL) where chances of long-term conservation are the best. Statistical evidence suggests these TCLs pose the highest probability for the long-term survival prospects for the breeding tigers: earmarking these habitats as Level I Tiger Conservation Units (TCU) on earth.

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