During the past 14 years, 8% of Tiger-inhabited forest have diminished worldwide, with the most detrimental losses evident in Indonesia and Malaysia as a result of the continually expanding agricultural sector.
It is estimated that approximately 80,000km2 has been lost. With the global tiger population considered fewer than only 3500, the loss of this much forest can have a huge impact on already declining tiger numbers. It is essential that the remaining forests are monitored, maintained and even protected to minimise the impact on the fragile tiger population.
Satellite imagery is going to play a major role in tracking changes and preventing further loss of critical Tiger habitat. Researchers from the University of Minnesota, Stanford University and various other wildlife conservation agencies are using satellite imagery to understand what vegetation changes have been occurring since 2001, and working out how these link to the decline in tiger numbers.
Satellite images revealed that one area in particular, Bukit Tigapulah experienced a 67% loss in tiger-inhabited forest since their study began, corresponding with the expansion of over 17,000km2 of plantation. This area alone could have supported 2% of the global tiger population, and although a small number, is large given the fragility of the tiger population.
The aim of the studies is to identify where deforestation is occurring most rapidly so that intervention strategies can be delivered to these locations to help protect tigers. It is monitoring activities like these which have already helped to increase tiger populations in both India and Nepal, with an increase of 31% and 61% found for each location, respectively. Monitoring in the past has been limited by the difficulties in obtaining free satellite imagery, though the opening up of the Landsat archive and now the recent launch of the Sentinel satellites, should help to support these activities well into the future. Hopefully this should help protect the endangered Tiger.