Vladimir Putin takes part in the International Tiger Conservation Forum

Vladimir Putin takes part in the International Tiger Conservation Forum

23 November 2010

Vladimir Putin’s opening remarks:


Ladies and gentlemen,


Today we have come together to discuss a very specific issue – environmental protection and conservation as well as restoring what’s been lost in nature.


Now I’d like to get straight to the issue at hand. I would like to welcome all of you who have come to St Petersburg today, to thank you for responding to this World Bank initiative and accepting our invitation to this international forum on the conservation of tiger – one of the most beautiful and regal creatures in the wild.


The presence of heads of government, heads of numerous international organisations, prominent scientists, environmentalists and social activists is itself an important sign. Delegations from 13 countries and three international organisations have come to this forum. Naturally, we will be discussing the conservation of the tiger today, and nobody in the world can accuse us of focusing here on insignificant things. Nobody will say that we’ve gathered heads of government and ministers just to talk about some cats.


Everyone understands that this forum is not only about a specific wild animal – about the tiger. Rather, this forum is about the fact that we are beginning to understand and address wildlife conservation issues at the governmental level. This forum is about future generations rather than the next election. This forum is about preserving the world’s treasures for future generations. This forum is about preserving nature. It is proof of our willingness to work out a strategy for cooperation and to take active, practical measures toward this end.


The tiger in is on the brink of catastrophe. Look at the numbers – tiger habitats are currently only 7% of what they used to be. This situation is sad and, I dare say, tragic. Over the past century the population of tigers in the wild has decreased almost 30 times over, from 100,000 to just over 3,000. Three of eight tiger subspecies are completely extinct – three of eight! These are more than just disturbing statistics. They represent irreparable losses of our planet’s wildlife, a distress signal that nature is sending to us in the hopes of being heard. It is our responsibility to repay our debts to nature, to save what can still be saved, and to repair our past mistakes.


Yes, people have always admired the tiger and invented legends about the tiger’s strength and beauty. But, at the same time, they callously competed for tiger trophies, mercilessly killing adult tigers and tiger cubs that had just opened their eyes for the first time. Humans have cruelly hunted these royal cats for sport and profit.


The expansion of civilization to the traditional habitats of tigers has played an equally important role in tiger extinction, as I have already mentioned. Selfish profit seeking, the reckless exploitation of forests and ill-conceived infrastructure projects have deprived the tiger of almost any chance of survival.


The tiger’s story could have been even worse but for the efforts of scientists and environmental activists who have fought against extinction. As the history of the tiger shows, while engaging in development, we must focus on more than just economic activity; we must also focus on such things as nature conservation, as economic development and conservation are often at odds.


One of the first to speak up about tiger conservation was Russian biologist Lev Kaplanov. As early as the 1930s, working in the Ussuri taiga, he wrote that “our main goal is to preserve the tiger in the wild for future generations as one of the jewels of nature.” It was largely thanks to his efforts that this country was the first in the world to completely ban the hunting of tigers in 1947. The international community followed suit, and now the ban has been enshrined in the laws of all countries that are home to the tiger.


Russia is the first country to devote a national government programme to the cause of protecting the tiger and restoring its population. A network of nature reserves has been created under this programme, and large-scale research has been launched.


Along with pulling the tiger back from the brink of extinction, the programme has also paved the way for the incremental growth in numbers.


The population of the Amur tiger, with Russia’s Siberia covering most of its habitat area, has grown more than tenfold over the past 60 years. Several decades ago, the number of tigers living in the region was estimated at just 20 to 30. Now it has increased to 500.


Much of the credit for that should be given to international conservation organisations, such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Contributions from Russian nature protection programmes also deserve a lot of credit.


To proceed with our efforts, we have adopted a National Strategy for the Conservation of the Amur Tiger. Its key requirements will be reflected in the programmes created for the development of Russia’s Far East, as well as in agreeing investment projects and new construction sites, including ones related to infrastructure.


Focused as we are on the broadest possible introduction of sustainable wildlife management principles, we seek to reconfigure the structure of economic activity in areas populated by tigers.


A ban was recently imposed in Russia on the logging of Korean cedar, called the fruit of the Far Eastern taiga. In an ecosystem, everything is interrelated: If cedars disappear, the boar and the deer will have nothing to eat and will soon be gone, leaving no food for the tiger.


Also, we intend to impose harsher punishments for tiger poaching and trafficking.


Tiger research will be brought to a whole new level. Already, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Geographical Society have embarked on a large-scale research programme into the tiger’s biology. 


A joint action plan has been drawn up in collaboration with our Chinese colleagues. One of its priorities will be to create special trans-border zones to ensure free tiger migration, as our friends in China and ourselves did earlier for the leopard. We’ve already established one such zone on the border with the People’s Republic of China.


Incidentally, we’re facing serious problems with the Far Eastern leopard here, in Russia as well, where its population has shrunk to 30-40 individuals, which was the case with the tiger in the past.


Consultations regarding cooperation on tiger conservation are also underway with North and South Korea. Our country is willing to share its accumulated wealth with others. The resettlement of tiger families could pave the way for the revival of the tiger population in areas where it is now extinct, notably in Iran and Kazakhstan.


We greatly appreciate that our partners from Iran and Turkmenistan are helping us restore the leopard population in the Caucasus.


Together, we can take a step toward restoring the tiger habitat. We seek close cooperation with all those who are aware of their responsibility and are willing to commit themselves to working with others for the cause of nature conservation.


Let me remind you about the Global Tiger Initiative, mentioned earlier today by [World Bank President Robert] Zoellick. It was declared in 2008, and all the 13 countries where tigers live approved it. Each then developed a national strategy for the preservation of these animals.


Symbolically, we have made a new step forward in 2010, the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese calendar. Within the current St Petersburg Forum, we have adopted a global programme for restoring the tiger population. It will enable the states involved to coordinate their efforts, attracting significant financial, administrative and technical resources, and to stimulate collaborative research. 


I’d like to emphasize that by approving this programme, our countries commit themselves to complying with environmental requirements. But the most important task will be to integrate our tiger conservation targets into long-term socioeconomic development plans. Achieving these objectives will require firm political will and heavy investment, financial or otherwise. But I’m sure that the motivation for such efforts is there.


Our willingness to pursue this large-scale cooperation and our adherence to the cause of preserving wildlife – the tiger in this case – will be reiterated in a special declaration to be adopted later today by the prime ministers and the heads of the official delegations of the countries that are home to tiger habitats.


The great humanist Mahatma Gandhi once noted that in a country where tigers live well, everyone lives well.  This is a true and profound remark. If people are capable of taking care of Mother Nature, of our splendid big cats, they can take care of their fellow human beings as well.


While our discussion today is about the fate of the tiger, we are in fact touching on issues that are critical for the entire planet, humanity and its future. Using the example of the tiger, we are speaking about how to preserve nature. We are saying that human civilization can only develop sustainably if we take a responsible attitude to nature, our common home. We all have to work hard and join forces to ensure that this attitude becomes widespread.


Thank you for your attention. Thank you very much.


* * *


Vladimir Putin’s comments on speeches made during a video conference with participants of the International Tiger Youth Forum underway in Vladivostok:


Ladies and gentlemen,


I would like to thank all the participants again and to underscore the point made just now by our young friends and colleagues gathering in Vladivostok.


Of course, it is of paramount importance to protect this magnificent, regal animal, the tiger, for future generations. But it is even more important to develop, on the basis of work in tiger conservation, some general approaches to wildlife protection and principles for collaborative efforts that could go hand in hand with development. The idea behind this is to create conditions that would stimulate economic and infrastructure development while at the same time enabling us to preserve what we have been given by God, so that future generations can enjoy all the splendor of nature on this planet.

I’d like to thank the World Bank and you personally, Mr Zoellick, for coming up with the idea to hold such forums and for your own conservation efforts. Thank you very much indeed.


* * *


Vladimir Putin’s closing remarks:


Dear Mr Zoellick, ladies and gentlemen,


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who has spoken here today, and other leaders from countries where tigers live have all highlighted the problems we’re here to discuss.


All the speakers have pointed out that many of the countries where tigers still live face economic difficulties and are in need of outside assistance and support.


Admittedly, addressing the challenges of wildlife conservation in such countries is no easy task. Their governments find themselves in a dilemma as they are above all expected to raise the living standards of the people. This is why to be able to ensure global wildlife protection, we should support national governments that are aware of the importance of the issue we’re examining here today. I really appreciate that Mr Zoellick has already set forth guidelines for such assistance.


We’re talking today about the conservation of the tiger and its habitat. We’re also discussing wildlife conservation in general. But we realize that wildlife is actually part of the human being’s habitat. So, at the end of the day, it’s all about humanity’s wellbeing. This is something that we should remember. And it’s the reason that we are gathered here today. Thanks to everyone for participating.