National Geographic : 2011 Dec
the roughly 180 camera traps that hold selected areas of the forest under eerie surveillance. Dis- played at the sanctuary's wildlife research station were images of tigers caught in all their secret ways---eyes glaring blue and luminescent in the dark, tigers lounging majestically on a bed of leaves under sha s of sunlight, a full-whiskered stare into the lens, or just the tip of a tail. e goal in Huai Kha Khaeng is to increase the population by 50 percent, to 90 tigers, and eventually to 720 in the entire Western Forest Complex. is prompts more heady speculation: If the tiger population of one well-managed park could be increased threefold in 20 years... "There is 1.1 million square kilometers of tiger habitat remaining," said Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist and vice president of conservation science of the WWF. "Assuming two tigers for every 100 square kilometers, that's a potential 22,000 tigers." is to save the few tigers that actually exist. And the story of the tiger's fate is relentlessly swi -moving. e Year of the Tiger, the celebration of which, in 2010, was the number one objective of a lauded tiger workshop in Kathmandu, has come and gone with no discernible bene t to the world's wild tigers. In November 2010 the 13 tiger coun- tries attending the St. Petersburg Global Tiger Summit in Russia pledged to "strive to double the number of wild tigers across their range by 2022." In March 2010 a mother and two cubs were poisoned in Huai Kha Khaeng, the rst poaching casualties in four years. e deaths prompted the ai government to o er a $3,000 bounty for capture of the poachers. In the same month two young tigers were poisoned in Ran- thambore, apparently by villagers who had lost goats to tiger attacks, while two new cubs were later born. And in Hukawng a new male tiger was caught by camera trap, a lone reminder of what this great wilderness could hold. Most authorities agree that the ght to save the tiger can be won---but that it must be waged with unremitting professional focus that ad- heres to a proven strategy. It will require the human species to display not merely resolve but outright zealotry. "I want it in my will," Fateh Singh Rathore had told me in Ranthambore, his eyes burning bright behind his spectacles. "When I die, you spread my ashes on these grounds so the tiger can walk upon my ashes." j BIG CAT WEEK In support of the National Geographic Society's Big Cats Initiative, Nat Geo WILD presents a week of nature's most exotic felines. Prime time; check local listings.