Wild tigers to return to Kazakhstan 70 years after going extinct
The signing ceremony took place in the pavilion of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Kazakhstan within the framework of EXPO-2017, with the participation of the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan Askar Myrzakhmetov, WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini and WWF-Russia Director Igor Chestin.
Kazakhstan’s tiger programme will contribute to Tx2 – the global goal to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, a commitment made by tiger-range governments at the St Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.
If successful, Kazakhstan will be the first country in the world to bring wild tigers back to an entire region where they have gone extinct for more than half a century. Tiger relocation projects have only been achieved within national borders and in areas that are considered current tiger habitats. Kazakhstan’s tiger reintroduction programme is unique and unprecedented and it requires the restoration of a vast riparian forest that is part of the wild tiger’s historical range.
To prepare for the return of wild tigers, the government of Kazakhstan will designate a new nature reserve in the southwestern Ili-Balkhash, in order to restore the unique riparian forest habitat that is adjacent to Lake Balkhash. This will include the protection of existing wildlife, and reintroducing important prey species, such as the endangered kulan (wild donkey) and Bactrian deer that are native to Central Asia, but now extinct in Kazakhstan due to poaching and habitat loss.
Restoring tigers will also help protect Lake Balkhash - one of Asia’s largest lakes and an important source of water in the Ili River basin - and prevent it from repeating the fate of the Aral Sea, formerly the world’s fourth largest lake and now 10 per cent of its original size.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, wild tigers have lost over 90 per cent of their historical range, which included Central Asia (modern Turkey and Iran to northwestern China). Wild tigers have completely disappeared from the region since the late 1940s, due to poaching, and the loss of key floodplain and coastal habitats.