1st Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation
January 27, 2010
Robert B. Zoellick
President, The World Bank Group
I want to thank the Royal Government of Thailand, especially Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti, and Permanent Secretary Dr. Saksit Tridech for hosting the ministerial meeting. I also want to thank the delegations from the Tiger Range Countries for attending.
- I am now more optimistic than ever about the future of wild tigers in Asia. The presence of ministers from such a diverse region indicates that we are gaining traction.
- The World Bank is impressed by the Government of Thailand’s leadership and dedication. Minister Suwit Khunkitti’s foresight and emphasis on improving wildlife enforcement and trans-boundary cooperation helped us get here.
Much has been achieved since the launch of the Global Tiger Initiative
- The Kathmandu Recommendations outlined specific actions that the Tiger Range Countries will take, as well as new regional and bilateral agreements.
- I recently met with Minister Bohara of Nepal and Minister Ramesh in India. Like Minister Suwit, these ministers are champions of tiger conservation. They have expanded protected areas and promoted trans-boundary cooperation with China.
- China has also announced a number of steps to deter illegal trade in tigers and reduce demand for tiger parts.
But the crisis on the ground remains
- An estimated 200 wild tigers were lost in India and Russia alone since 2008.
- There will be no room left for tigers and other wildlife in Asia without a more responsible and sustainable program for economic growth and infrastructure development.
- The tiger may be only one species, but the tiger’s plight highlights the biodiversity crisis in Asia.
- Moreover, poverty could deepen if people lose the essential ecosystem services that the tiger’s forests and grasslands provide.
We are at a tipping point. This is the first time the tiger is getting real political attention in every range country, offering real hope for restoring wild tiger populations.
- Tiger Range Countries’ governments are eager to move forward. We must seize the opportunity and stem the tiger’s decline before the Tiger Summit in September in Russia.
- This conference offers the opportunity to accelerate implementation of the Kathmandu Recommendations. National policies must be based on the best science. In so doing, national park management can be professionalized through capacity building, the use of updated technology and tools, and learning from models that reveal the true economic value of live tigers in the wild.
- As a critical first step, governments must better protect tigers from poachers. They must also protect the tiger’s prey, the national parks that form core tiger breeding areas, and tiger landscapes from unsustainable infrastructure projects that are not tiger-friendly.
- The protection of existing tiger populations must be a top priority. Only then can we hope to achieve the ambitious goal to double the wild tiger populations in the Tiger Range Countries by 2022.
Regional cooperation is essential to tiger conservation and the protection of Asia’s biodiversity.
- The World Bank stands ready to support implementation with regional projects in law enforcement, community development, and innovative finance. We are already working with the Smithsonian Institution on capacity development by training policy-makers and practitioners in the region.
- We want to support new projects on the Indian subcontinent, including the Terai Arc landscape that spans India and Nepal, and in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, where much habitat remains for tigers to rebound.
- The time has also come to mobilize the donor community and develop innovative financial instruments to support tiger conservation funds.
- We must reach out to the private sector and persuade business leaders to support our cause.
- A paradigm change in development is slowly emerging from Copenhagen. REDD and REDD+ financing that value forests, and the animals that live within them, are very promising avenues for support.
We must set the stage for the September summit in Vladivostok:
- Political will to act has increased. But now we need to roll up our sleeves.
- Tiger Range Country governments need to bolster national and regional tiger conservation plans in the months ahead.
- We need to deploy pilot projects on technology, park management, and capacity building; and we need to implement the scientific recommendations that emerged from Kathmandu.
- Our partner organizations and governments should also strengthen outreach and communication efforts to raise awareness among those outside the conservation community.
The Year of the Tiger is upon us. We must now embark on the path to restoring, and then growing, tiger numbers throughout their range.
- Saving the tiger will be a source of national pride for the tiger range countries. Wild tigers currently live in only 13 countries, but people all around the world want to save the wild tigers, and thus also have a stake in their survival.
- In order to succeed, it will take a partnership of nations and organizations pooling their expertise and passion.
- 2010 is the most important year ever for the tiger – it MUST be the year we take decisive steps to save this majestic species.