Statement by Dr. John Robinson at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit


St. Petersburg, Russia, November 22, 2010


Your excellencies, distinguished delegates from the Tiger Range States, colleagues and honored guests, good morning.

It is truly a pleasure to be here to represent the Wildlife Conservation Society.  WCS has over fifty years of experience working for tiger conservation, from the pioneering work of George Schaller, Ullas Karanth, Alan Rabinowitz, and Dale Miquelle, to today’s work by the new generation of tiger conservationists – people like  Melvin Gumal, Anak Pattanavibool, Chantavy Vongkhamheng, and Beebach Wibisono.

I want to express special thanks to Prime Minister Putin and to the representatives of all 13 tiger range states for their leadership in moving forward with this Summit; and to President Zoellick of the World Bank for his support of the Global Tiger Initiative, which has stewarded this process.

We all recognize that we seek to make this Summit a turning point for tigers. The ambition and scope of this initiative is humbling.  We are taking on this commitment of ensuring that tigers not only do not disappear on our watch but thrive in landscapes across Asia.  This is a huge responsibility on which future generations will judge us.

We can do this, but we can only do this if we work in partnership.  WCS is focused on offering technical assistance and support, both financial and logistical, to our partners in Tiger Range States. To date, we have responded to commitments from TRCs to conserve the tigers in Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, and Thailand.

We are committed to providing this support and assistance at those landscapes prioritized by range states. Most of these contain ‘source sites’, nationally important parks and reserves that contain core breeding populations of tigers, which are embedded in larger tiger landscapes, and thus act as ‘sources’ for dispersal throughout those landscapes.

We are committed to help national agencies to adopt law enforcement monitoring, using systems like MIST and SMART, which allows management personnel to maximize the effectiveness of patrolling and surveying – and thus strengthen core protection of tigers.  We must not forget that tigers are declining because we are not providing enough protection.  

We are committed to working with national agencies to strengthen monitoring of tigers and their prey – thus providing the scientific data necessary for effective management.

We are committed to providing training and support to the men and women who, day in and day out, are working to save tigers on the ground. We provide this support, not just for one year, but over their careers.  After all, it is these conservationists from TRCs who are in the front line of out tiger conservation efforts.

We are committed to working regionally to help uncover the patterns of the illegal trade in wildlife, and specifically in tigers, and providing that information to the relevant national and international authorities.  And we are active in initiatives to reduce the consumer demand for tigers and tiger parts.
 
Over the next 12 months, WCS will be putting close to $5 million onto the ground in Asia for tiger conservation. These are funds that are entrusted to us by bilateral government donors especially the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and multilaterals like the Global Environmental Facility and the World Bank. Private individuals and private foundations are also making crucial commitments to tigers, such as those of the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation which has put tiger conservation as its highest priority, and collaborating organizations like Panthera. Together we will be investing a minimum of well over $50 million in the next 10 years before the next Year of the Tiger. And let me stress again that WCS will work to ensure that all of these investments are targeted at on-the-ground efforts in tiger range states.

No single country can address the challenges of tiger conservation by itself. No organization, no governmental institution can alone turn around the challenge posed by the decline in tiger numbers. Together, and in partnership, we can make a difference, and following this Summit we must put into place the institutional mechanisms (1) to leverage the additional resources and funds that will be necessary if tiger numbers are to be doubled in the years ahead, and (2) to maintain the consensus that we have forged over the last two years – a consensus that tiger will survive, and indeed will thrive again.

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