Tigers on TV: Debbie Banks comments on the latest tiger activities – monsoons, media and monitoring

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.

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.