Venture capitalists fund tiger conservation program
July 6, 2006
A new program that calls for a 50 percent increase in tiger numbers in key areas over the next decade blends a business model with hard science and has already attracted $10 million from venture capitalists according to an article published in the current issue of the journal Nature.
The new initiative, called “Tigers Forever” and backed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), involves a dozen the conversation organization's field sites that are home to an estimated 800 tigers. The plan projects that these tiger populations can climb to an approximately 1,200 individuals across these sites within ten years.
Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, director of the big cat programs at WCS, says that this kind of accountability with specific numbers over a specific time period, is a new concept for conservationists. “We're putting our reputations on the line and holding ourselves accountable that we can grow tiger numbers,” said Rabinowitz. “At the same time, we have the knowledge, expertise and track record to accomplish this goal.”
The plan calls for collabortive efforts between the organization, local governments and other partners to develop knowledge on tigers in remote places like Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley – the world’s largest tiger reserve – and step up anti-poaching activities in other sites, including Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai protected areas. In some sites, like the Russian Far East, tiger numbers may not increase from their current estimated population of 500 animals.
The venture capitalists who have backed the initiative say they like the hard numbers and solid planning of the program.
“I am most interested in supporting efforts that will get results,” said Michael Cline, a venture capitalist and WCS trustee. “WCS’s Tiger’s Forever initiative has brought together two key initiatives – superb people armed with an understanding of what it takes to save tigers. In an area where there have been many disappointments, I am betting that Tigers Forever will get results.”
Scientists estimate there are some 3-000-5,000 tigers left in the wild, though the sheer range of estimates reflects the lack of field knowledge about the world's largest cat. What is known is that tiger populations have fallen dramatically in recent years due to habitat loss, hunting, and poaching for their parts.
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Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
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