Science Forum with tiger expert John Seidensticker

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Audio Transcript:

China and Russia have announced a plan to set up a cross-border protection zone for Siberian tigers. The plan is part of the Global Tiger Recovery Program that's attempting to save the remaining wild tigers in parts of Asia. Anchor Marco Werman speaks with tiger expert, John Seidensticker, an advisor to the Global Tiger Initiative.

MARCO WERMAN: There's a ray of hope for the future of the Siberian or Amur tiger. China and Russia have just announced a plan to set up the first cross-border protection zone for these big cats. John Seidensticker heads the Conservation Ecology Center at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington DC. He's also an advisor to the Global Tiger Initiative. He joins us now from the BBC studios in Washington. John, how is this new cross-border protection zone actually going to help the population of Amur tigers?

JOHN SEIDENSTICKER: This has been in the works for a while. I think it's a very positive development. They have to reduce poaching and increase prey. The tigers from the Russian side will in fact repopulate the Chinese side.

WERMAN: I mean there's such a high demand for tiger parts in China and the whole system seems constantly under pressure from corrupting forces. How will that be addressed?

SEIDENSTICKER: To save tigers you need to do a lot of things basically at the same time. Poaching is one, but if you can't stop poaching, if you haven't reduced demand and to reduce demand you have to deal with some deep cultural issues which will take a wide ranging awareness building process. And you have to establish policies that both recognize and protect tigers and tiger habitats.

WERMAN: We heard author John Vaillant talking earlier about tigers killing humans and their dogs that was in Far East Russia. Every now and then we hear or see such reports from other parts of the world as well. For example, in the Mangrove Forest of India and Bangladesh, which is home to the Royal Bengal tiger. How do you conserve the tiger in places where they pose a threat to livestock and human lives?

SEIDENSTICKER: First of all, in human-tiger conflict, the tiger will always lose. If there isn't an incentive to make live tigers worth more than dead tigers, we'll lose tigers.

WERMAN: Are there countries in, kind of these so-called tiger zone, that are taking innovative approaches to conserving tigers? I mean an approach that's beneficial to both tigers and humans?

SEIDENSTICKER: Most all the countries are trying [SOUNDS LIKE] one best practice or another. In fact, in Nepal for example, almost 20 years ago they began a process whereby the local communities shared profits from the national parks where tigers live, so that there's many went back into the local community, not to individuals, but went into the public good such as improving health clinics and schools and training people who live near the park. And that's been very successful and it probably can be applied much more widely.

WERMAN: John, we'll leave it there, but you'll be continuing this conversation online with our listeners in The World's science forum. John Seidensticker, conservation biologist at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington. Thanks very much.


WERMAN: To listen to a longer version of our interview with John Seidensticker and to join the online discussion with him, just go to John will take your comments and questions through next week.