Wild Tigers to be Reintroduced to Kazakhstan After 70 Year Absence

Conservationists are applauding an announcement made this week by the Republic of Kazakhstan that it plans to reintroduce tigers to part of their historic range, where they’ve been absent for 70 years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were believed to be 100,000 tigers living in the wild. Today, there are only estimated to be as few as 3,900 left, who continue to suffer from the threat of poaching, loss of prey, habitat loss and fragmentation, and conflicts with us.

Indian tiger (Panthera tigris tigris); ThailandCredit: Martin Harvey/WWF

Fortunately, these iconic big cats aren’t without their advocates. In 2010, 13 tiger range countries came together to pledge to take steps to double the population in the wild by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger, for a measure known as Tx2.

Now it’s hoped Kazakhstan’s commitment will help contribute to that goal. At a ceremony this week, officials signed a memorandum with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) committing to restoring them to the Ili-Balkhash region, where they have been missing for close to a century.

IMG_4556Credit: WWF

“We applaud the Republic of Kazakhstan for the vision and leadership shown in embarking on a most ambitious and exciting conservation challenge to bring back this majestic predator to the country. This is a major contribution to securing a future for tigers in the wild and also a critical step toward protecting the Ili-Balkhash region for its unique biodiversity and important natural systems that people rely on,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

Siberian TigersCredit: David Lawson/WWF-UK

According to WWF, while other relocation and reintroduction efforts have been made in areas where tigers are already believed to exist, this will mark the first time a country has attempted to reintroduce them to an area where they have gone extinct.

“Kazakhstan is moving along the path of green development. We are honoured to be the first country in Central Asia to implement such an important and large-scale project, that not only will bring wild tigers back to their ancestral home, but also protect the unique ecosystem of the Ili-Balkhash region,” said Askar Myrzakhmetov, the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Flooded dunes with reedbeds and tugai (_) WWF-RussiaCredit: WWF-Russia

The project is going to be a huge undertaking. WWF added that at the beginning of 2018, the government will establish a new nature reserve to protect existing wildlife, and will later reintroduce native prey species who have also gone extinct, including the endangered kulan, or wild donkeys, and Bactrian deer.

_ Anton Agarkov - WWF Russia - The Bactrian deer, or Bukhara deer, is a type of red deer that is unique to Central AsiaCredit: Anton Agarkov/WWF Russia

“The hard work remains ahead of us. We have to up our efforts to make this region ready for tigers and involve all stakeholders to make this happen. That means tackling poaching and illegal activities, having well-trained and equipped rangers, thriving prey populations and engaged local communities,” said Ekaterina Vorobyeva, Director of WWF-Russia Central Asia programme.

Hopefully the project will be a success, and will help tigers regain their rightful place in the wild.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

94 comments

Celine Russo
Celine Russo2 months ago

But... has their environment changed in these last 70 years? Is it still viable for them?

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H2 months ago

I guess it is good news but only if they protect from poachers.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I2 months ago

This is a good thing!! Thanks!

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Cruel J
Cruel J2 months ago

The REALLY hard work will be when they are being forced to protect these tigers from those who would kill them, given the opportunity.

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Aaron F
Aaron F2 months ago

Great news...except I worry that they'll just become target practice again.

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Georgina M
Georgina M2 months ago

Isn't it nice hearing such positive news?Let's hope everything goes well

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Sherri S
Sherri S2 months ago

Good news. Let's hope the reintroduction is successful

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

Wildlife area doesn't appear to have many trees left, no wonder the tigers died out. They'll need to plant a lot more.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

Great aim for them but I am afraid of poaching

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heather g
heather g2 months ago

Kazakhstan is a big country and the wildlife area looks great However, the rangers will have a big job on their hands if the culture hasn't changed in the last 70 years

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