Washington: India has been identified as the most important country for tigers with 18 source sites dedicated solely to their conservation, according to a recent study.
In a worrying discovery, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have found that most of the world`s last remaining tigers - long decimated by overhunting, logging, and wildlife trade - are now clustered in just six per cent of their available habitat.
In their study, the researchers have identified 42 `source sites` scattered across Asia that are now the last hope and greatest priority for the conservation and recovery of the world`s largest cat.
The securing of the tiger`s remaining source sites is the most effective and efficient way of not only preventing extinction but seeding a recovery of the wild tiger, say the study`s authors.
The researchers also assert that effective conservation efforts focused on these sites are both possible and economically feasible, requiring an additional 35 million dollar a year for increased monitoring and enforcement to enable tiger numbers to double in these last strongholds.
"While the scale of the challenge is enormous, the complexity of effective implementation is. In the past, overly ambitious and complicated conservation efforts have failed to do the basics: prevent the hunting of tigers and their prey. With 70 per cent of the world`s wild tigers in just six per cent of their current range, efforts need to focus on securing these sites as the number one priority for the species not," said Joe Walston, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society`s Asia Program and lead author of the study.
According to the paper, fewer than 3,500 tigers remain in the wild, of which only about 1,000 are breeding females.
Walston and his co-authors identified 42 tiger source sites, which were defined as sites that contain breeding populations of tigers and have the potential to seed the recovery of tigers across wider landscapes.
India was identified as the most important country for the species with 18 source sites.
Sumatra contains eight source sites, and the Russian Far East contains six.
The authors calculate the total required annual cost of effectively managing source sites to be 82 million dollars, which includes the cost of law enforcement, wildlife monitoring, community involvement, and other factors.
The authors say that in spite of decades of effort by conservationists, tigers continue to be threatened by overhunting of both tigers and their prey, and by loss and fragmentation of habitat.
Much of the decline is being driven by the demand for tiger body parts used in traditional medicines.
The study has been published online in PLoS Biology.