Wildlife Conservationist Envisions a Future for Tigers in Northeast Asia

At present, the Siberian tiger is at the tipping point for its recovery or extinction, this according to Dr. Dale Miquelle, Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Russia Program. With an estimated 3,500 tigers remaining in the world today, the goal of conservationists is to double that number by 2020, while the cost of inaction would mean their extinction by 2040.

In his recent lecture at St. George’s University, titled, “Dreaming of Donuts: A vision of tiger conservation in northeast Asia”, Dr. Miquelle pointed to poaching, loss of prey, and habitat loss/degradation as the primary reasons for the tiger’s decline. However, Dr. Miquelle believes that the Siberian tiger can be saved, detailing a plan for tiger conservation in northeast Asia.

“First, we should let ‘good’ science drive policy decisions, then secure source sites or protected areas for tigers, as well as secure habitat/populations outside of these protected areas because they represent the majority of tiger habitat,” advised Dr. Miquelle. “We also need to resolve tiger-human conflicts—these conflicts between people and tigers remove animals from the wild and turn public opinion against tigers.”

“Lastly, we need to expand tiger habitat/tiger distribution, and train the next generation of conservationists,” added Dr. Miquelle. “In the Russian Far East and northeast China, there are very few young biologists/conservationists. In Russia especially, the next generation is missing. Hence, we seek to identify, support, and train the next generation of specialists, and provide them stimuli to stay involved.”

Dr. Dale Miquelle was invited to the True Blue campus by the Department of Biology, Ecology and Conservation in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). Dr. Andrea Easter-Pilcher, Interim Dean of SAS, met Dr. Miquelle during a two-month sabbatical trip to Siberia and the Russian Far East as Visiting Scientists in 2015. Housed for five weeks in the WCS house in the small village of Terney on the Sea of Japan, she spent time in the field with Dr. Miquelle and other Siberian tiger, leopard, and Musk deer biologists at this biosphere reserve, which is the last stronghold for the Siberian tigers.

“We are preparing our Marine, Wildlife and Conservation Biology students for work on the global stage, as our graduates hail from Grenada, other Caribbean countries, the US, Canada, and Europe,” stated Dr. Easter-Pilcher. “Likewise, Dr. Miquelle knows how to succeed on that level, by leveraging funds, building local professional capacity, and implementing data-driven programs, all in difficult international political environments.

“Hosting someone of Dr. Miquelle’s caliber, in the wildlife and conservation biology sciences, is a testament to SGU’s intellectual breadth and global reach and is a tremendous benefit for our students and the SGU community,” she continued. “We were indeed fortunate to have Dr. Miquelle with us here at SGU.”

Trained as a biologist at Yale, University of Minnesota, and University of Idaho, Dr. Miquelle focused on moose in Minnesota and Alaska for his degrees. However, working for a year on the Tiger Ecology Project in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, with a Smithsonian-led tiger research team changed his focus and cemented his interest in both international conservation efforts and large carnivore research. In 1992, he led the field team of a joint Russian-American Siberian Tiger Project, during which time he became a passionate conservationist, using science as a platform for policy change, working in both China and Russia to ensure a future for big cats.

Currently, Dr. Miquelle also serves as Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Tiger Program, coordinating research and conservation actions to protect large carnivores and the ecosystems upon which they depend, focusing mainly in northeast Asia.

– Ray-Donna Peters