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FEATURE STORY

Celebrating the First Anniversary of the Tiger Summit

December 8, 2011

An estimated 3,200 wild tigers are all that remain today, living among 76 landscapes in Asia. While public awareness has grown and tiger range country governments have made major commitments, instituted policy reforms, and begun to implement the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), other formidable forces remain at the center of the battle for survival. First and foremost among these threats are poaching and an increasingly sophisticated illegal wildlife trade that targets tigers and other species, including rhinos and elephants.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development opened an event marking the first anniversary of the global tiger summit, noting that "crime against wildlife including trade is often opportunistic because wildlife is undervalued, never insured, rarely guarded, and easy to cash and carry." She stressed that as the illegal wildlife trade becomes more organized and sophisticated, the World Bank, with its partners, aims to step up efforts to protect the tigers.

These efforts will be an integral part of a comprehensive approach to biodiversity that is underpinned by World Bank’s work on Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES), and include landscape approaches, Kyte said.

She stressed that the global community needs to "shift the balance of what is valued and why, work on economic incentives, and centralize and effectively enforce actions against illegal trade."

Open Quotes

The political will generated in St. Petersburg is effecting change on the ground," said Zoellick. "Over the past year, all the tiger range countries have strengthened wildlife protection laws, increased patrolling teams, conducted intensive training of front line staff, and created or strengthened institutions to address wildlife crime. Close Quotes

Robert Zoellick
World Bank President

At the event, Kyte was joined by World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, U.S. Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, and the Bank’s Executive Director for the Russian Federation, Vadim Grishin.

"The political will generated in St. Petersburg is effecting change on the ground," said Zoellick. "Over the past year, all the tiger range countries have strengthened wildlife protection laws, increased patrolling teams, conducted intensive training of front line staff, and created or strengthened institutions to address wildlife crime.”

The goal of the gathering was to help encourage the foot soldiers and reinvigorate the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) partnership exactly a year after the Tiger Summit was concluded in St. Petersburg.

While progress was commended, an experts’ panel took up the realities facing conservation practitioners on the ground in tiger range countries, focusing on the increasingly problematic and escalating issue of illegal wildlife trade.

Officials working on wildlife issues from environment and forestry ministries in three tiger range countries (TRCs), Nepal, Vietnam, and India, joined by video link to speak of their efforts over the last year to fight poaching, engage communities, conduct scientific monitoring, and work in other areas to advance tiger conservation.

Zoellick cited a number of areas of cooperation and support, including World Bank and GEF (Global Environment Facility) financing for a regional wildlife project getting underway, the launch of INTERPOL’s Project PREDATOR to scale up intelligence-sharing and communication efforts by police and customs agencies in the TRCs, a new approach to tiger-friendly Smart Green Infrastructure, a Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support tiger conservation, and a pilot Wildlife Premium Market Initiative to channel carbon investment funds under REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) to wildlife conservation.

Since its launch in 2008, the GTI has attempted to redefine the paradigm of development and to mainstream the value of biodiversity, including wildlife, into the center of the development agenda. Much-needed financial resources are gradually becoming available to support the Global Tiger Recovery Program. The World Bank has secured US$100 million of concessional finance for a regional wildlife protection project in six tiger range countries, and the GEF has US$60 million in the pipeline for the tiger conservation landscapes. Non-governmental organizations have also stepped their efforts.