Сaspian tiger comeback is supported by Kazakhstan government
WWF-Russia received a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstanon behalf of the presidential administration of the country. In the letter a support for the WWF’s initiative is expressed as well as willingness to begin a creation of the new nature reserve – Ile-Balkhash, that is a key condition forcarrying out a program of bringing back tigers to Kazakhstan.
Also a letter expresses gratitude for the “more then 20-years-long successful cooperation and a contribution of the World Wildlife Fund into the conservation of biodiversity of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” The Ministry of agriculture proposes to “work out a project of agreement between the government of Kazakhstan and WWF for the further implementation of measures and action on tiger reintroduction.”
An agreement will be signed in 2017, possibly during the international specialized trade show EXPO-2017 that will take place in Kazakhstan.
'We are grateful to the Kazakhstan government for the support and readiness to cooperate to carry out such an ambitious and ingenious program', says Igor Chestin, WWF-Russia’s CEO. 'If this project will be brought to life, Kazakhstan will become the first country in the world to bring tigers back to its territory.'
If was first in 2011 that WWF together with Kazakhstan’s government and specialists began to develop a program for Caspian (Turanian) tiger reintroduction to the region of Central Asia. The results of the study on the possibility of tiger’s population restoration in that area were first published by WWF Russia in the spring of 2011. The study showed that there is a territory of about 500,000 hectares in the floodplain of the Ili river, south of the Balkhash lake, that is well suited for that predator’sdwelling. It is very important, that a study of the British genetic scientists has showed that Caspian tiger is genetically almost identical to the Amur tiger from the Russian Far East, that allows to restore the extinct population using their Far Eastern relatives. The program was officially launched in spring 2014 in Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University. However, due to complicated economic situation in Russia and Kazakhstan, carrying out of the program was postponed.
In January 2017 another study of WWF and University of New York was published in the Biological Conservation magazine, aimed on clarification on how long it will take to restore the number of ungulates as well as possible term for the release of the first tigers. All this was made by building a mathematical model.
'We are excited about the renewal of that unique program,' said Ekaterina Vorobyeva, head of WWF Russia’s Central-Asian program. 'There is a long and challenging work ahead of us, but its results are definitely worth all the efforts.'
According to Vorobyeva, to make the tiger comeback possible, it is necessary to fulfill a number of important conditions: to stop a degradation of the tugai ecosystems – riparian forests and reeds, cause by the uncontrolled fires; to restore the prey base (ungulates like tugai deer, wild boar and roe-deer); to organize a profound work with local people to uproot the poaching, to guarantee safety of people as well as to create a positive attitude towards the future new “neighbor”. Besides, for the resiliency of the ecosystem it is necessary to provide a stable water regime of the Balkhash lake and the Ili river. This river is partially located on the territory of China, so the Kazakhstan authorities will have to implement a special international partnership program.
Caspian (turanian) tiger – Panthera tigris virgata – is an extinct subspecies of tigers that inhabited a huge territory from Turkey to the western China, including Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia. General area of its habitat was about 800-900 thousands square miles. Caspian tigers lived in the floodplains tugai forests and reeds thickets along natural water basins like creeks or rivers. As judged bythe indirect data, their density reached about 2-3 animals on 100 km2, that is comparable with India and a lot higher than in the Far East. According to specialists, a proposed territory for the new national park in the Ili river delta and on the southern shore of the Balkhash lake is well suited for tiger reintroduction.
Prime reasons for Caspian tiger’s extinction were degradation of the floodplain and coastal ecosystems due to agriculture development, as well as a direct extermination of tigers as of a harmful predator. The Caspian tigers went extinct in 1950s in Kazakhstan and in 1970s in the rest of the world.