Hua Hin, Thailand, January 29, 2009 – Governments from across Asia’s tiger range countries (TRCs) sent a powerful message that new efforts to save wild tigers from extinction would begin immediately and called for total protection of critical tiger habitats as the 1st Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation concluded today at the resort of Hua Hin, Thailand.
The Royal Government of Thailand hosted the meeting. Thailand’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Suwit Khunkitti pointed to commitments in the Hua Hin Declaration, and urged other TRCs to follow through with consolidated technical recommendations that resulted from an earlier meeting in Kathmandu on tiger conservation: “We shall reach up to the highest levels of our governments for support at the Year of the Tiger Heads of State Summit in Russia. Let us join together boldly to save the wild tiger.”
Thailand made a number of new commitments at the conference:
• Expansion of its SMART wildlife area patrolling program in its Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) at Huai Kha Khaeng-Thung Yai
• Assistance to its neighbor countries to repatriate tigers when the population of tigers in WEFCOM and Kaeng Krachan/Kuiburi becomes large enough to act as a donor source
• Announcement that it would make funding for the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network a permanent item in its budget
Seven ministers, along with senior delegations from 13 tiger range countries, gathered with top wildlife conservation experts and representatives from international organizations and donor institutions such as the World Bank, Global Tiger Initiative, WWF, Save the Tiger Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, USAID, FREELAND, and TRAFFIC, to energize the wildlife conservation agenda, update national action plans, and announce specific proposals to reverse the continuing decline of tiger populations.
President of the World Bank Group Robert B. Zoellick, who launched the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) in June 2008 together with the Smithsonian Institution, Global Environment Facility, and other partners, delivered a video message to the ministers and delegations, promising support for the range countries’ efforts and to spearhead sustainable development in Asia: “The World Bank stands ready to support regional projects in the tiger range countries and to mobilize the donor community and develop innovative financial instruments to support tiger conservation funds.”
Populations of wild tigers have declined to only 3,200 worldwide, according to latest estimates, from 100,000 a century ago. The GTI is one of the drivers of the World Bank’s commitment to new strategies that balance economic development with nature conservation, biodiversity and environmental protection.
Another significant development in Thailand came from Prime Minister Vladmir Putin and the Government of the Russian Federation, who officially announced plans to host the Heads of State Summit in September.
The Hua Hin Declaration reflected agreement among the TRCs to redouble efforts on the ground to halt the decline of tigers and assist in recovery of habitats. An international donor conference is also planned later this year to support the countries to bring increased resources for integrated game-changing policy to save the species from extinction.
Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Tiger Initiative, said: “We are delighted to see a ray of hope for the tiger as represented by the tiger range countries’ commitment to work together to double wild tiger numbers by 2022. We look forward to seeing their pledges turn into firm actions in Vladivostok.”
All 13 tiger range countries were represented in Hua Hin. They include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.