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Posts Tagged ‘global tiger summit’

We asked Simon Clinton, the driving force behind the Save Wild Tigers gala held back in March of this year, what makes him so passionate about saving the wild tiger and find out just how ambitious his plans are.
View of a tiger in the wild, India. Copyright Robin Hamilton,

View of a tiger in the wild, India. Image courtesy of Robin Hamilton. Watch the video

Watch the sensational tiger video The Clinton Partnership put together for the project.

“The inaugural Save Wild Tigers black tie dinner in March, at the Mandarin Oriental was without doubt a great success. Why? Firstly we all came together to fight the cause under a single umbrella, EIA, Born Free & WildAid. Secondly, we managed to galvanise support for our 6 month awareness programme – an art exhibition on tigers, a forum at the RGS and finally the gala dinner, which raised close to £100,000. A great achievement by all.
“Back in the 70`s as a kid being brought up in Malaysia I first became aware of Tigers, and indeed my Fathers support then for Tiger conservation work in Malaysia with the WWF. However only in recent years did I really understand how dire the situation was, frightening numbers – 3,200 left, $10,000 for a Tiger skin, 10 years to extinction, these numbers hit hard.
Save Wild Tigers - London 2011

Save Wild Tigers - London 2011

As a marketing guy, the power of this iconic symbol over the years for brands and indeed upon varying cultures is incalculable, think Tony the Tiger from Kellogg’s, think Esso/Exxon Mobile “a Tiger in the Tank”, think enjoying a Tiger beer on a relaxing beach in Malaysia, or a indeed a kids story around Tigers, it’s time we gave something back to them – before it’s too late.
For me, the journey actually begins now, for others like Debbie it began many years ago. Personally, I can’t think of many other causes that have had such a impact on our culture and lives for thousands of years, yet could all be over in 10 short years, indeed we are already 6 months into our 10 years, the clock really is ticking!
“Let’s really pick up the pace, there’s so much we can all do. If you need inspiration, watch the video on www.savewildtigers.org or the EIA site and help us before it’s too late.”
Simon Clinton (left) with Virginia McKenna and artist Gary Hodges

Simon Clinton (left) with Virginia McKenna and artist Gary Hodges at the Tiger Gala

Simon Clinton
The Clinton Partnership

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Copyright istock.And so, as we slink silently from Year of the Tiger and bound into the Year of the Rabbit, we pause to reflect on whether the last twelve months have been truly auspicious for the great cat, have we turned a corner, can we look to 2022 and the next Year of the Tiger with hope?

The Global Tiger Recovery Program, adopted in St Petersburg last year by the governments of countries where tigers live, sets out the broad brush stroke actions they are committed to, in order to double the wild tiger population by 2022. Last year, we reported on how many of these promises have been made before, and already we are starting to see cracks in this road to recovery.

The beleaguered Minister of Environment & Forests for India, Jairam Ramesh, constantly has to defend forests from industrial encroachment. Having boldly declared no-go, hands-off forest areas to stop the coal miners from ripping them up, today he was forced by louder voices in the cabinet to concede a significant amount. Where was the Prime Minister during these cabinet decisions? What of his government’s commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to tiger and biodiversity-compatible management of forest corridors and landscapes?

Credit Mike VickersMeanwhile in Burma, the authorities are hunting down the activist who blew the whistle on the colonisation of forest by a private corporation in the Hukawng Valley, which was only recently declared the world’s largest tiger reserve. Villagers have been turfed out to make way for sugar cane plantations. How does this fulfil the commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to engage local communities, let alone ensure the security of tiger habitat?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so at EIA we’re baking a cake. The ingredients are all the positive and negative decisions governments make following the St Petersburg meeting, all the incidents of forest rescue or forest destruction, poaching and trade, convictions, intelligence sharing or lack thereof. If you want to help us, feel free to email us with verified reports of the good and the bad, and lets see what we can turn out.

My own tiger guru, Valmik Thapar, recently gave a talk at Asia House in London about the tiger in Indian art. Really, he was talking about the Cult of the Tiger; of the value and role of the tiger in hearts and minds, expressed through rituals, dance, paintings and sculptures dating back centuries.

Perhaps the Year of the Tiger, symbolic of bravery and competitiveness helped the tiger jostle for position on the political agenda. Maybe the Year of the Rabbit, symbolic of creativity, compassion and sensitivity will help us touch the values of those who live with tigers and reignite a cult that can save the cat from extinction?

A combination of the two might be good, and thanks go to my colleague Debby Ng, for sharing reference to such a symbolic creature, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit.

And finally, we have teamed up with Born Free and WildAid, for the fundraising event of the year, all in aid of the wild tiger. You can find out more about it here. Within the last hours Jimmy Choo has confirmed. Be in with the chance of winning two tickets in our raffle draw.

Debbie Banks

Debbie Banks

Senior Campaigner

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World Leaders at the International Tiger Forum

World Leaders at the International Tiger Forum

On return from the International Tiger Forum, away from the celebrities, the press and the hype,  Debbie Banks reflects on where the tiger is left after St Petersburg.

“No matter how pragmatic your strategy, how robust your evidence or how loud you shout; at the end of the day when it comes to saving wild tigers, it’s down to the political will of the leaders of the countries that tigers live in. They’re the ones that can direct resources towards policies, projects and operations that will lead to more effective enforcement, community engagement and prevent habitat destruction.

That’s why, after 14 years in tiger conservation and the wild tiger population at a mere 3200 animals, I can’t help but feel just a teensy bit positive after hearing five Prime Ministers speak at the International Tiger Forum in St Petersburg, Russia. They have indeed committed to doubling the wild tiger population by 2022; the next Year of the Tiger.

There’s never been a high level summit for the tiger before and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin really set the tone of the summit by talking about the value of the wild tiger, the forests it lives in and what that means for humanity.

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao

He and his counterparts, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar and Laos PDR Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh all talked about the need to work together to save the tiger and end the tiger trade, with Wen committing China to “vigorously combat poaching, trade and smuggling of tiger products”. Music to our cynical conservationists’ ears.

Naomi Campbell & Ilya Lagutenko at the Tiger Forum

Naomi Campbell & Ilya Lagutenko at the Tiger Forum

The summit closed with a star-studded event hosted by Russia’s no.1 rock star Ilya Lagutenko and Naomi Campbell, with musicians from Malaysia and China. Putin spoke again about the tiger, from the heart and with humour, praising Leonardo DiCaprio for being a “real man” to persist in his efforts to get the concert despite two aircraft-related near-disasters. And one of the tiger’s real heroes, forest inspector, Anatoly Belov was honoured for his tiger protection efforts.

Earlier in the week the technical nitty gritty arising from 12 months of discussions was concluded with the formal adoption of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), and the formal launch of the International Consortium for Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

With a shortfall of $350m to implement the GTRP and ICCWC, tiger range countries had arrived in St Petersburg expecting the international community to put the money on the table; apart from India, which is investing well over a $1bn in tiger conservation over the next five years.

In the same week that an $80bn bailout was announced for the Celtic tiger, the donor community squirted out a measly $332m to save Asia’s tigers. It’s a paltry sum and much of it tied to climate and forest-related activities, some of it is in the form of loans, and only a little of it available for emergency enforcement responses. Nonetheless, it’s a start. It’s what happens now that the summit is over that is really important.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Of course, there are immediate actions governments can take that are low cost and will go a long way to reversing the tigers fortunes. We believe that if the leaders take the following steps it will instil confidence in the public and donors that this Year of the Tiger marks that much-needed gear change in political will; which in turn could generate more financial support.

1) As a matter of priority, the leaders of tiger countries must broadcast a message to the nation, declaring their commitment to double the tiger populations and engage their public, the entire government and industry in the task. This would be a sign that the promises made in St Petersburg were real, and it won’t cost them a penny.

Tweeting from the Forum, Debbie Banks & Will Travers

Tweeting from the Forum, Debbie Banks & Will Travers

2) The leaders can demonstrate their commitment to ending the tiger trade by:

  • Immediately instructing all law enforcement agencies to provide intelligence on criminals engaged in the tiger trade to their INTERPOL National Central Bureau;
  • Assigning a senior police investigator in the INTERPOL National Central Bureau to work on tiger / wildlife crime on a fulltime basis;
  • Calling a round-table of the highest level decision-makers in police and Customs to ensure the right people attend a forthcoming tiger trade seminar and that wildlife crime is placed on the curricula of their training academies.

3) The leaders can send a clear signal to consumers of tiger parts that there will be zero tolerance on trade and they can remove any reason for speculation on the part of tiger farmers by:

  • Destroying stockpiles of tiger parts and derivatives;
  • Taking enforcement action to close down operations that leak parts and derivatives of captive bred tigers on to the market place.

Simples!

Come and hear more about the summit from EIA, Born Free and WildAid, and how together we can turn words into action at the Saving Wild Tigers Forum on 7th December, 8.30pm at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR.

For more information click here and for tickets click here

For a copy of EIA’s latest report Enforcement not Extinction: Zero Tolerance on Tiger Trade, please click here.


Debbie Banks, Senior  Campaigner

Debbie Banks

Senior Campaigner

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Asia House Save Wild Tigers Forum – Turning Words into Action

In partnership with Born Free, Environmental Investigation Agency and WildAid. Tickets available.

Click for ticketsThroughout the Year of the Tiger there have been considerable international efforts to save this highly endangered species.  As part of a global drive to highlight the tiger’s plight Asia House will host a key London event, the Asia House Save Wild Tigers Forum on 7 December 2010, bringing together internationally renowned conservationists and speakers.

The Forum is part of a season of events with which Asia House aims to galvanise public support and raise funds to save the tiger. Other key events include The Tiger in Asian Art (4th December- 12thFebruary) a major exhibition of art spanning the last three thousand years.

Providing a platform to raise issues and debate possible solutions to save the tiger from extinction, Asia House Save Wild Tigers Forum, will work towards ensuring that the next Year of the Tiger provides a real reason to celebrate. Speakers at the Asia House Save Wild Tigers Forum include Debbie Banks, Senior Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, Steve Trent, Co-Founder and President of WildAid and Will Travers, CEO of Born Free.

The Forum builds on the International Tiger Forum held in Saint Petersburg on 21- 24 November, hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, where leaders from tiger range countries aim to work out an ambitious tiger conservation strategy. The forum presented a historic opportunity to reignite political will to save the worlds remaining tigers. But what now? The Asia House Forum will give members of the general public a chance to hear about the practical steps needed to save the tiger.

THREATS TO THE TIGER

Once extended across Asia, tigers now survive only in scattered populations. Long term threats include deforestation, human population growth, agriculture and development projects impacting on the tigers’ habitat and the illegal trade in tiger parts and products.

SOLUTIONS

The forum will focus on possible solutions to save the tiger including tightening wildlife law enforcement through crime prevention and detection, protecting and managing tiger habitats, expanding consumer and public awareness in order to reduce demand, and supporting community incentives.

AT THE FRONTLINE OF TIGER CONSERVATION

Asia House has selected three NGOs who actively play different roles in saving tigers to partner this event.

  • Born Free is working on the ground and has a sanctuary for rescued tigers in Bannerghatta National Park in Southern India. Here, in three acre jungle enclosures with large pools, the tigers can live out their lives in peace and dignity and a degree of freedom enjoying larger and more natural conditions.
  • WildAid works to reduce the demand for endangered species parts and products and to put an end to the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. WildAid use high-impact, culturally sensitive, customised multimedia campaigns to encourage a shift in consumer behaviour under the slogan ‘when the buying stops, the killing can too’. WildAid messages reach up to 1 billion people every week and are supported by over 80 high-profile wildlife ambassadors including Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Ang Lee and Harrison Ford.

WHY IS SAVING THE TIGER IMPORTANT?

The tiger has existed for over two million years across Asia. Now one of the most threatened species in the world, the tiger is a potent reminder of the vital need to preserve wildlife and protect natural environments. Saving the wild tiger is not just about saving a charismatic species. It is about securing a long-term future for tigers, the forests they live in and the people who depend on those forests for their survival. The wild tiger is a symbol of our global efforts to secure a stable environment for our future. Their survival reflects a political commitment to good governance and the fight against corruption.

Net proceeds from this event will be donated to Born Free, Environmental Investigation Agency and WildAid.

Get your tickets here.


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Recently, I was interested to read about a physicist named John Archibald Wheeler. One of Wheeler’s theories was (put very basically) that everything is information. Meaning, literally, everything is information – that the deepest foundations of the universe are ultimately made up of nuggets of information, corresponding to a vast chorus of “yes” or “no” binary choices, from which all physical existence flows.

So this word ‘information’ no longer merely suggests something like ‘facts’ or ‘knowledge’. As information philosophy explains it, the word has now expanded to mean something greater – something that can even be described in biological, metaphysical, even cosmological terms. It’s said we’re living in an information age. In recent times, the concept of information has mutated to symbolise and represent many different things, and come to guide us into myriad new ways of thinking and doing. Likewise, in the enforcement world, the understanding that information exists, that it can be captured, expanded and enhanced to enable appropriate responses to illegal activity has also undergone an expansion in recent years.

This blog shows you that EIA has many activities, works with many tools. The gathering, analysing and sharing of information to identify and combat environmental crime is one shade in its palette. In the enforcement world, these processes use raw information as the starting ingredient; they connect, unite and enhance pieces of information into a more cohesive whole, called intelligence. The result of these actions should be a picture or a portrait of crime; where it’s happening, due to whom – and how to combat it. Intelligence-led action relies on profiling, investigation and consideration of targets – not random or superficial activity that isn’t informed by the situation on the ground. As EIA’s work cross-cuts enforcement and conservation concerns, we believe that intelligence-led enforcement is one thing which will help to preserve endangered species.

Faced with a haemorrhage of species from some of the most biodiverse areas on earth, we ask enforcement agencies to develop their applications of intelligence. Because we have seen that borders pose few barriers to a sophisticated and organised global trade, we ask that enforcement agencies and governments communicate, and share their information to dig down to the roots of the illegal trade, to effect substantial and lasting change.

Please click on image to see a larger version (Copyright EIA)

By linking different pieces of intelligence, a web of associations springs up. This composite i2® chart shows trans-Himalayan connections in the skin trade, revealed through skin seizure events and telephone records. EIA has used this tool to show the transnational nature of the skin trade to campaign for greater enforcement and international cooperation. Copyright EIA.

EIA’s own investigations have shown that those perpetuating the illegal trade operate within sophisticated and fluid networks. By necessity these are covert, shadowy, difficult to penetrate. Because EIA campaigns for change to protect the natural world from abuse perpetuated by networks such as these, we use i2® intelligence analysis software to depict the nature of criminal associations and transactions to governments and enforcement agencies. There needs to be a sophisticated approach to a sophisticated problem, and presenting information in a way law enforcement agencies understand is just one way of pushing environmental crime up the agenda. EIA has seen that the right information really is there – indeed everywhere – waiting to be captured and used to fight environmental crime.

It’s my hope that enforcement responses to environmental crime might reflect features that have been ascribed to the natural world. Vigour is needed, co-operation also. Some range states now have dedicated wildlife crime enforcement units; there are information sharing networks are operating. But species decline continues. The kingpins continue to operate undeterred. Traders tell us they anticipate increased demand for tiger skins in this, the Year of the Tiger.

The fabric of issues impacting upon environmental crime is complex. Decision makers need to dig deep into what causes and perpetuates these problems, and make real commitments to change. The International Tiger Forum in St Petersburg is forthcoming, in November.  So in the Year of the Tiger and beyond, let information be transformed into intelligent enforcement.

Charlotte Davies, Intelligence AnalystCharlotte Davies

Intelligence Analyst

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Big, beautiful Tigers!

It’s not often we get to report good news but we just burst into October with some that I have to share. My friend Balendu Singh, who lives near Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India, posted pictures of a big beautiful hairy male tiger on his Facebook page on Day 1 (1st October 2010) of the post-monsoon season at the Reserve. Later that afternoon he saw a female elsewhere in the Reserve. It’s always a sigh of relief, when the park opens up after the monsoon, which is the poacher’s peak season, to see that life has continued! Well done to RTR staff. Now we just have to hope the big male stays away from his neighbour, a resident female and cubs, until she is ready to breed again.

 

Debbie's photo from Ranthambore - copyright EIA

Debbie's photo from Ranthambore

 

Though breeding is good. It’s all about the breeding. So long as the tigers who are happily breeding in protected areas have access to safe forest corridors to disperse into, and travel to find new mates, then there is hope.

That was the subject of lots of excitable chatter over the last week or so following the release of BBC’s Lost Land of the Tiger mini-series. Can Bhutan provide a corridor connecting the Terai Arc (Indo-Nepal) to the forests of Burma and thus the rest of South East Asia?

Bhutanese and Nepalese scientists have long documented the presence of tigers in the foothills of the Himalayas across Bhutan, they also documented the presence of high altitude tigers a decade ago, but nobody has obtained camera trap video footage of tigers resident at high altitude. Until now.

Over three action-packed episodes following an expedition of scientists, explorers and wildlife camera crew, the BBC brought some amazing footage into our homes; tigers showing territorial behaviour, including a lactating tigress, at over 4000m. Igniting the public imagination just at the right time, months before world leaders will convene in Russia to seal the wild tiger’s fate.

It’s down to the leaders of tiger range countries, when they meet at the end of November in Saint Petersburg, courtesy of Prime Minister Putin, to make the right commitments, to turn words into action and protect the forest areas that can save the wild tiger, to declare an end to all tiger trade and to assign the right people to bust up the criminal networks that control it.

That’s why last month EIA went to the 7th INTERPOL Environmental Crime Conference in Lyon. We were invited to present on what we thought the international police network could do to combat environmental crime. With the tiger summit looming, one of the things we proposed they could do (if they had the money!!) is establish “Tiger Desks”. Dedicated national police investigators assigned to gather and share criminal intelligence on the people involved in, or suspected of being involved in, transnational trade in tiger parts and derivatives.

 

Debbie Banks, Tiger Campaigner

Debbie Banks, Tiger Campaigner

 

Our proposal sparked some discussion about a much wider network of “Wildlife Desks”, and so we have sown a seed that we will do our best to help grow. With the INTERPOL General Assembly taking place early November in Doha, Qatar, there is a chance to persuade the budget holders and decision-makers of the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus, that they hold the key to combating wildlife crime globally, and in so doing, save tigers and everything they represent.

Debbie Banks

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Image courtesy of Robin Hamilton

….gearing up for the Global Tiger Summit.

It feels like we are approaching the end of a journey. This year, the Year of the Tiger, will see the highlight of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) process with a gathering of world leaders in St. Petersburg in September. Followed by a rock concert!

Launched in 2007 by the World Bank, with input from the Smithsonian Institute and the International Tiger Coalition (ITC, a group of around forty NGOs working on tigers), the idea was to use the combined weight of the tiger conservation community to bring unprecedented attention to the plight of the wild tiger, and to work with the tiger range states to achieve real progress on protecting habitats, stopping illegal trade, reducing demand for tiger parts and closing down tiger farms.

Since then there have been numerous meetings and declarations – Kathmandu in October 2009, Hua Hin in Thailand in January 2010 and just a week or so ago in Bali, Indonesia.

EIA was there in Kathmandu, reminding the delegates of the truth about the tiger trade and the undignified end to many tigers’ lives; as a decorative rug for some corrupt and/or wealthy Chinese officials. At least in the context of ending the tiger trade, we felt that we had got some strong statements of intent from the governments. Sadly, that appears to have been watered down through the successive meetings.

Copyright istock.

Somehow we have to make this Year of the Tiger different; we have to make all the talk count. EIA’s been around the block, been around for the two previous Years of the Tiger. All the promises being made at these meetings… we’ve heard them all before. So yes, we’re a touch frustrated.

Tiger range and consumer countries have had years to start sharing intelligence on wildlife crime, close down markets or shut their tiger farms and they have so far failed to do so. Local issues of land rights, eco-development and resettlements are too complex to be solved at high level summits, and there is little new on the table in any case.

But hey, if the governments had just got on with it and fulfilled the promises made in 1998, we’d have a lot more confidence in their words. We’re left with no choice but to question what it is they will do at this Summit that will turn world leaders into heroes?

What is new is the scale of money being discussed, in some cases billions of dollars over the next twenty years. This is welcome, as for too long conservation has been forced to operate on the cheap, with budgets that would be laughable in most other sectors (the conservation spend in India for example is significantly smaller than the country’s chewing gum market).
The question is where will this money come from? In some cases, the rapidly growing economies of the Asian giants may have enough to spare. Though China flip-flops between declaring itself a developing country and an economic powerhouse. There is however increasing focus on what are described as ‘innovative’ forms of financing – ecosystem services, carbon storage, reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).

We can all agree that we need to find ways of paying for forests and habitats, and to maintain them as carbon sinks but extending a nascent carbon market to forests is fraught with danger. Rampant corruption has already been seen in other carbon markets, and allowing industrial polluters to offset their emissions by paying to protect a tiger habitat that would and should have been protected anyway seems wrong. There is also the danger of commercialising something that was formerly a common good. We will have to wait and see.

The output from last week’s meeting in Bali has resulted in a rash of frantic phone calls and emails with fellow conservationists about what we can do as NGOs to help make sure the Summit marks not the end of a journey, but the beginning of a new era of meaningful action, for tigers and for the planet.

As the summit in Russia draws nearer, EIA, its partners and its friends will continue to churn out briefing documents, position statements, letters of appeal, everything we can to push for the best possible outcome for tigers. We’ll be calling for better enforcement, intelligence exchange, the involvement of official agencies like INTERPOL and UNODC and cross-border cooperation. We will keep pushing too for an end to the farming of tigers for their parts, an idea that continues to rumble away. As we have said time and time again – the tools are largely there to do this, it just takes political will. In the meantime tigers continue to be poached, forests continue to be destroyed and we all lose something.

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