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Hot passion, tigers --and shoe shops

Tony Whitten's picture

The Bank is full of hot passion.  Indeed we are expected to fight passionately in our work, and for a small group of us recently the subject of that passion has been tigers.  Passion in the World Bank makes for noisy meetings, adrenalin and angst. I thus find it fascinating that when colleagues are about to retire they send around an email which almost invariably mentions that their most treasured memories will be of the colleagues alongside whom they fought.  Our biennial staff surveys typically find us moaning about management and work-life balance, but when it comes to the questions of whether we enjoy our work and feel proud of working here, the ayes have it overwhelmingly.  

One of the reasons I enjoy my work so much is that wherever I go there is part of the conservation network to plug into and it is invariably people who feel passionate about the need to save the world’s last wild places and natural ecosystems. It makes for close bonding because we all face the slaps or disinterest with which biodiversity is often greeted. 

Let’s face it, there are easier things to do than conservation. As someone who worked with me some years ago said, conservation was so hard that she was on the edge of taking a job in a shoe shop.  Everyone needs shoes, there are no forces against the wearing of shoes, and at the end of the day you have finished your work and know the next day that more people will want more shoes. 

Over the last few weeks my belief in there being a unity of purpose within the conservation community has taken a knock. For the last half year or so a group of us have been trying to build up a unique partnership with the International Tiger Coalition (ITC) to “save the tiger”.  Of course ‘saving the tiger’ has been done before, and the Bank itself has supported 30 projects which should have benefited tigers. Yet conservation NGOs, governments and we have to admit that the fruits of our labors do not, in almost all cases, include more tigers.  Instead, they have been getting rarer and rarer.  It is a basic failure in the delivery of conservation. 

On Monday this week we launched a Tiger Conservation Initiative with the ITC and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) at the National Zoo here in Washington DC followed by a day of high-profile related activities. Our President, Harrison Ford, Bo Derek, senior government officials from the US and beyond, celebrities from tiger range countries, and many of the world’s most renown tiger scientists came to support the day

Yet, in the weeks leading up to this, the planning was marred by infighting, misinformation and bitterness, much – I would personally suggest – due to misunderstandings and the problems of language and institutional characters. NGOs and the World Bank work differently and have different yet complementary constituencies.  The hiccoughs were perhaps inevitable – like communication difficulties within a new passionate couple. Communication skills develop but they can take time, and thus patience and accommodation need to be cultivated.  

Even though a couple of implacable groups have decided not to associate themselves with the collective efforts, on the day I believe the collective passion to move forwards together for the sake of the tigers was rekindled.  If I am proved wrong, I may be on the look-out for an opening for someone with no experience at my local shoe shop. 

Comments

Submitted by Tom Grubisich on
"...in the weeks leading up to this, the planning was marred by infighting, misinformation and bitterness," you say. Any examples you can give, without causing more infighting?

Submitted by Bryony on
Greetings from Indonesia. I've been thinking about collaborative work a lot this year. I think it's the thing that gives the greatest joy - moving beyond your institutional walls and working towards a common vision with people who might be from quite different backgrounds, but can also apply the same passion to the goal in sight. So don't give up on it! You might just need to go a little slower, and find more neutral forums to house the discussions. And a facilitator with no institutional ties - or at least as independent as is realistically possible. I'm sure I won't be seeing you in Payless any time soon... Good luck, and save those tigers!

Since our priority now is to move forwards with the lessons of the past in our minds, I don't really want to drag up the old problems. Suffice it to say that NGOs and the Bank do things in different ways and aligning over three dozen NGOs and ourselves behind a common agenda requires learning and accommodation on all sides.

Submitted by Bryony on
I think you've done a great service to get a biodiversity issue such high profile at the World Bank, and the backing of the President. But it needs to be recognized that there is a great deal more work to be done internally to truly align the World Bank with such an initiative - a high profile launch and a funding progam is a good start, but not enough. Mainstreaming environment and social issues into the World Bank's work is hard work, and I think given a fairly low priority by the institution - while the negative impacts of investments may be screened and mitigated, there are so many positive opportunities to make a difference that are missed. There are some truly innovative examples where this has been done for biodiversity issues, but too few. Of course, a single species initiative is not really the place to start with this - but perhaps on wildlife trade in general you can have more success and I would really encourage you to keep working on this aspect. On the tiger initiative - I think that World Bank staff and projects can kick-start this process, but it needs to be a stated aim of the initiative that the discussions and consensus building will feed into a more neutral forum - where the World Bank is recognized as one stakeholder among many, and not just environmental NGOs either. When I look at the list of organizations involved in this initiative, I only really see two stakeholders - the World Bank and eNGOs. There are many other players that must be brought on board as the initiative progresses to truly make a difference, as well as internal alignment within the World Bank. You need to find a forum and facilitator that is institutionally aligned to handle such conflicting agendas, and is truly committed to a long term process. A GEF project will not be long enough; it is never long enough. I worry that if it remains a World Bank-led initiative it will burn out - I'm not convinced that the World Bank will be able to make a really long term commitment to this particular issue - nor perhaps should it make one to any one particular species in this way. Plus there are legitimate concerns over the impact that World Bank investments and the development process in general can have on biodiversity conservation, especially for a large range species - this needs to be recognized up front and incorporated into the discussion. I'd also be more wary of media launches - I don't think you can launch a discussion or a process, there is nothing concrete for people to fix on - so in this case, they fixed on the World Bank's relationship with tiger conservation, and that's bound to be highly contentious. I think you will have more success keeping this low profile, while the participants in the process identify and concrete priorities for action, decide what interventions are needed and who should do them, and secure funding and commitment to make it happen - then you can have a launch. Again, good luck and keep going!

Submitted by Bryony on
I've changed my mind. I still agree with most of what I've written, apart from the part about tigers not being the place to start mainstreaming. Actually, I think it IS the place to start - in my ideal, egalitarian world, all animals are created equal - including those blind-eyed cave fish - but while we work towards it, we need to start with the issues that mean something to people. And the loss of the wild tiger clearly does. So it is a good place to start building from - now we need the World Bank to start looking for practical, useful ways to integrate solutions to these problems into projects with the governments of the countries concerned. But some of the more controversial conversations about tiger conservation - moral, cultural, political - need to take place in the "public sphere". Which is probably not a World Bank blogspot, but in the absence of anything else... OK I will give you (or someone else) a chance to reply, and stop arguing with myself!

Submitted by Gary Verstick on
Many involved in tiger conservation welcome the Bank’s ‘passion’ for saving the tigers. However, it is with sadness and amazement that I find that the subspecies of tiger -the South China Tiger is declared “extinct in the 1990’s” in the Initiative’s report. The South China tiger (panthera tigris amoyensis) is critically endangered and faces many challenges such as genetics, limited numbers, loss of habitat and a major conservation organization that has declared them ‘functionally extinct’. Thankfully, in spite of these challenges, the ancestral stem subspecies of all tigers is still very much alive. There are 67 in Chinese zoos and there are many scientists who believe there are still 20 or 30 roaming the wilds of China. The Chinese government has been trying to rescue this subspecies working with an International organization. Three South China Tiger cubs were born recently in South Africa under a special program. However, it makes the efforts to save this tiger much harder when a large prestigious organization such as the Bank has unilaterally declared it extinct. You mention the planning was subjected to infighting, misinformation and bitterness – and this is well documented in Cory Meacham's book "How the tiger Lost its Stripes". You also mention certain groups decided not to associate themselves. Well, I am sure that the Chinese government and the organizations working on the South China Tigers would have appreciated any support from the WB. I only hope that as the Initiative moves forward, your ‘passion’ will help fix some of the misinformation and injustices remaining in your report. Gary Verstick

Submitted by T.E. Moss on
The Initiative's report is consistent with the results of scientific studies on the decline of South China tigers. See, for instance, the paper of R Tilson, H Defu, J Muntifering & PJ Nyhus, Dramatic decline of wild South China tigers Panthera tigris amoyensis: field survey of priority tiger reserves, published in Oryx (2004), 38:40-47 (Cambridge University Press). Its abstract reads: "This paper describes results of a Sino-American field survey seeking evidence of South China tigers Panthera tigris amoyensis in the wild. In 2001 and 2002 field surveys were conducted in eight reserves in five provinces identified by government authorities as habitat most likely to contain tigers. The surveys evaluated and documented evidence for the presence of tigers, tiger prey and habitat disturbance. Approximately 290 km of mountain trails were evaluated. Infrared remote cameras set up in two reserves captured 400 trap days of data. Thirty formal and numerous informal interviews were conducted with villagers to document wildlife knowledge, livestock management practices, and local land and resource use. We found no evidence of wild South China tigers, few prey species, and no livestock depredation by tigers reported in the last 10 years. Forest areas designated as tiger reserves, averaging about 100 km2 in size, are too small to support even a few tigers because commercial tree farms and other habitat conversion is common, and people and their livestock dominate these fragments. While our survey may not have been exhaustive, and there may be a single tiger or a few isolated tigers still remaining at sites we missed, our results strongly indicate that no remaining viable populations of South China tigers occur within its historical range. We conclude that continued field efforts are needed to ascertain whether any wild tigers may yet persist, concurrent with the need to consider options for the eventual recovery and restoration of wild tiger populations from existing captive populations."

Submitted by A. Roubaix on
I agree, there is no misinformation in that report. In spite of wishful but rather uninformed assertions from some people (and even false reports of South China tigers in the wild based on forged videos or photographs, one of which was actually published in SCIENCE), for all practical purposes the species is extinct in the wild, as it was concluded by Ron Tilson after an 8-month field survey in five provinces of South China. The last direct observation of these tigers comes, if my memory serves me well, from a field survey in the Guangdong mountains some 20 years ago. Even if a few individuals were to remain now, the necessary habitat conditions no longer exist for a viable recovery. Now with respect to the South China tigers in captivity, there are about 50 of them in Chinese zoos (Kun et al., 1998). Alas, these individuals are very inbred, and both high mortality rates and low birth rates affect them.

Submitted by Gary Verstick on
Moss and Roubaix have missed the point entirely. I know of no scientist or conservationist (including Tilson) who declare the South China Tiger extinct. Some regard it as “functionally extinct” or “extinct in the wilds” and certainly “critically endangered”, “extinct” no. The World Bank is the first to unilaterally declare the species extinct, and not only that, “extinct in the 1990’s”! I will not argue how many South China tigers exist in wild. I do know that Tilson's much quoted report is highly debated. It took 1000 trap nights to catch one tiger in Burma where the density is much higher than in China. Tilson also recognized the need for more study: “While no direct sightings have taken place, this evidence suggests that South China tigers may still persist in a number of localities but where and how many are not scientifically validated yet. The potential distribution area covers 11 natural geographical units and is about 90,000 km2, with six of the 11 units covering about 18,000 km2.” Thanx Moss for your Tilson quote, maybe you should read it: “We conclude that continued field efforts are needed to ascertain whether any wild tigers may yet persist, concurrent with the need to consider options for the eventual recovery and restoration of wild tiger populations from existing captive populations." Roubaix’s godlike judgement that “the necessary habitat conditions no longer exist for a viable recovery” is nonsense – even Tilson has proposed habitat reclamation using Indo-chinese tigers and restocked prey. Further, it is generally considered bad conservation practice (by the IUCN) to declare a species extinct when the numbers are very low, because it takes away incentives for local people to conserve the habitat and gives commercial interests an excuse to access the area, since the "disappearance" of a keystone species signals the habitat need not merit protection anymore. Regardless of the wild population, a responsible organization like that of the World Bank should be helping the Chinese government’s initiative to restore habitat and reintroduce tigers to the wild, instead of unilaterally condemning the last remaining South China tigers to extinction, simply because it is expedient. This goes against all the grand words in the Tiger Initiative, or is the initiative just some sort of conservation lip service?

In response to the posts of Gary Verstick, I should point out that the figure which has the above quote is from: Wikramanayake, E., E. Dinerstein, J. Forrest, C. Loucks, J. Seidensticker, S. Klenzendorf, E. Sanderson, R. Simons, A. Heydlauff, J. Ginsberg, T. O’Brien. P. Leimgruber, M. Songer, and G. Bryja. In Press. Road to recovery or catastrophic loss: How will the next decade end for wild tigers? Tigers of the World: The science, politics, and conservation of Panthera tigris, 2nd ed. ed. R. Tilson and P. Nyhus. Norwich, NY: William Andrew Press. This has many of the foremost names in tiger conservation attached to it and we regard it as an authoritative source of information.

Submitted by T.E. Moss on
In his prior posting, criticising a terse label in one figure of the 42-page Bank's report on the future of wild tigers, Mr Verstick seems unable to understand basic concepts of attribution of scientific data. In the report (http://snurl.com/2vlr9), figure 1.2 shows data on habitat and population trends -- the source for this figure, including its label 1990s South China tiger extinct, is given as "Wikramanayake et al., in press." An informed reader would thus understand this figure comes from a work by Dr Wikramanayake and others not yet in print but already slated for publication. Alas, in a histrionic exercise of tortuosity in conservation politics, Mr Verstick accuses the Bank of "unilaterally" declaring the S.C. tiger extinct for having reproduced, with due attribution, such a figure from the work of a respected scientist of the World Wide Fund. In his second posting, besides repeating his uninformed accusation (now hyping it as the Bank being "the first to unilaterally declare the species [sic] extinct"), Mr Verstick continues to grasp semantic straws about the status of this subspecies last sighted in 1987. The Bank's report is about wild tigers so, in the absence of a statement to the contrary, any result or conclusion in it logically applies to tigers in the wild. Besides the point, however, something else is missing in what Mr Verstick has written here. And that is his failure to disclose explicitly that he works for Save China's Tigers (as general manager in its Honk Kong office). This organization, after having helped funding the last part of the tiger survey of Tilson et al. (2004), has entrenched itself in opposing Dr Tilson's conclusions that the S.C. tiger is functionally extinct, and that necessary habitat conditions for viable recovery are no longer there. These are conclusions that could negatively affect the controversial tiger rewilding program in South Africa of that organization, a program which is based on captive bred tigers with a high level of inbreeding and a rapidly declining heterozygosity (10th generation or so descendants of 4 males and 2 females of those wild S.C. tigers captured in the 1950s that managed to reproduce successfully). I would say the only clear instance of misinformation has been, so far, Mr Verstick's lack of candor in disclosing this information. Lastly, for readers of this blog not specialised on the subject, it is worth quoting the Vancouver Sun article of 2nd November 2002 on Dr Tilson's conclusions, which has been brought up a number of times in the website of Mr Verstick's organization: "There are no tigers," Tilson told a conservation group here recently. "There is no prey and there, is no habitat. All of China's tiger conservation areas have been converted to spruce and fir forests. I did not even hear any birds." T.E. Moss

Submitted by A. Roubaix on
Thank you for posting the reference. Since I haven't read yet this new edition of Tigers of the World, I am not sure what are the arguments of Wikramanayake et al. for selecting the 1990s as the date of the (functional) extinction in the wild of the South China tiger. But whether it was in the 1990s or later, it is rather uninformed to dispute a firm date now because of the usual lack of precision in determining when a (sub)species has become functionally extinct or even extinct. The Caspian tiger is a good example of the latter case : there are conflicting claims on when the last individual was killed, which span from 1947 in Eastern Iran to 1970 in central Turkey, or even 1997 in Northeast Afghanistan.

Submitted by Anonyme on
Voulez-vous dire que, après avoir lu (a) le titre en indiquant que le rapport parle des tigres SAUVAGES, (b) le résumé final en indiquant que le rapport parle de TIGRES SAUVAGES, (c) la section I du 1er chapitre en indiquant une fois de plus que le rapport parle de TIGRES SAUVAGES et enfin (d) la section suivante, « Pourquoi les TIGRES SAUVAGES sont dans une situation dangereuse ? », que montre l'illustration célèbre, nous devons conclure que le rapport de la Banque mondiale parle de tigres SAUVAGES ? Shocking, shocking . . . :)

Submitted by Gary Verstick on
Thanx to Tony for providing the (2?) academic references that are the basis for the World Bank to declare the South China tiger extinct. We are familiar with these authors and the fact they all have based their claims of “possibly extinct in the wild” on single ‘field study’ involving about 30 days, over a period of 8 months and a few infrared cameras. This limited survey examined a fraction of the huge potential tiger range sites, involved 288 miles of trails and only 392 photo capture nights. The Chinese field biologists who participated in this study refused to sign it as they disagreed with its sweeping and controversial conclusions and issued their own report. Refuting Tilson’s (admittedly limited) and disputed 2004 field study would take more space than available here and is irrelevant to the ‘extinct’ question as there are at least 70 stud-book registered S.C. tigers still living in captivity on this planet. We can thank Tilson’s associate, Dr. Kathy Traylor-Holzer for that studbook. I would be happy to introduce you to a few of those ‘extinct’ tigers. Further, we can not find anything in your specific references that declare the South China tiger extinct, other than the World Bank’s own report. I would appreciate any specific reference by any recognized field biologist that says all South China tigers are extinct. It is a great leap by the World Bank to attach the ‘extinct’ label when even the most negative researcher have cited them “possibly extinct in the wild”, or “near extinction” or “on the brink of extinction”. Is the World Bank changing the meaning of ‘extinct’ to ignore individuals in captivity? If your mandate is to inform, why would your report not even mention these captive tigers? You might consider waiting for their demise or for international organizations such as IUCN and the chairs of the Cat Specialist Group to declare them extinct. Also, you might contact Ron Tilson to let him know that the South China tiger is extinct as he is now in Hupingshan China to investigate reintroduction reserves for them. In spite of the World Bank’s passion for tigers, it is doing great harm and disservice to those tigers that are most endangered and needing of your support by pandering to the vested interest of a few individuals in the conservation ‘biz’. I strongly urge the World Bank to broaden their list of advisors, question the dubious science, recognize that the South China tigers still exist and to support the activities of Chinese authorities in restoring these tigers to protected reserves. Tony, as a wildlife biologist , I’m sure you realize that the WB’s turning your backs the South China Tiger and declaring them extinct will only hasten that process and the loss of habitat which many are working so hard to prevent.

Submitted by Leonardo on
With this reply: "-The best material on this subject is the book written published in 1998 (Year of the Tiger) by Cory Meacham: "How the Tigers Lost Its Stripes". Cory Meacham became a big supporter of Save China's Tigers, after he learned of SCT's every in 2000. The host of this blog may choose to omit this information."

Submitted by Gary Verstick on
I don't understand Mr. Moss questioning my candor – I would have thought that anyone reading my posts, bearing my full signature, would have been able to surmise I supported the conservation of South China Tigers… except for maybe for the odd academic who, blinded by references, can’t see a living tiger in front of his nose! As to Moss’s rehashing of Tilson’s 2002 conclusions, this substantiates my point that this ‘functionally extinct’ label can be attributed to that one very limited study. As to why it should be questioned, I would be more than happy to share our views on the subject should the moderators allow the substantial space required. Regarding ‘declining heterozygosity’ and my ‘clear instance of misinformation’ and ‘lack of candor in disclosing this information’, I wish to point out that the genetic challenges of this subspecies are well publicized and are declared in the 1st paragraph of my 1st post. It is a challenge that can be overcome as evidenced by the recovery of other once-endangered species. Lastly, as to my grasping at semantic straws (choosing to see a distinction between ‘functionally extinct’ and ‘extinct’), I’m not a scientist, but I humbly suggest there is a major gap between something being ‘near dead’ and ‘dead’. I am aware that the Bank’s report is about ‘wild’ tigers. This does not obviate the fact that many recognized conservationists consider the rewilding of captive subjects into prey-restocked protected environments as a viable conservation option. Rewild means to make wild again. Ignoring Mr. Moss’s abilities to goggle my name, I would invite him to expose his vested interests in declaring an obviously living S.C tigers extinct. Would it have anything to do with Ron Tilson’s plans to introduce Indochinese tigers into traditional South China habitat... a difficult undertaking while the S.C. tiger might be still resident?

Submitted by B.C. Albaghetti on
Given Leonardo's last statement, I believe it is important to clarify that Cory J. Meacham (a journalist who teaches writing at the UC San Diego Extension for on-line courses) is, by his own admission, neither a scientist nor a trained conservationist. In his book, he effectively claims the tiger is in no danger of extinction, a view that seems to match his subsequent support of legalized tiger farms for tiger body parts. He has his blog The Bare Bodkin (http://preview.tinyurl.com/6jhtoj). Searching the entire weblog site for the keyword "tigers" via Goggle (http://preview.tinyurl.com/5ew9d9), only 2 of the resulting 25 hits are from Meacham's blog. None are about the South China tiger of the Save China's Tigers organization. In fact, both point to his same blog entry, Mandarin Orange of June 19, 2006. He discloses there his activities advising the Chinese government about tiger parks –– an euphemism for the infamous 'farms' where tigers are kept in captivity in controversial conditions until they die by natural causes, omission, or commission, when their body parts (or "tiger derivatives" in his terminology) are sold mainly for traditional Chinese medicine uses. Cory Meacham may indeed be "a big supporter" of that organization. If so, however, he seems to be a silent one so far. Neither in Meacham's blog entries accessible with the above search, nor in a general search of Web sites, one finds evidence of such support, whether big or small. How odd.

Submitted by T.E Moss on
In trying to come up with an excuse for not having disclosed he works for an pro-ecotourism and conservation group opposing the views on the status of the wild S.C. tiger held by well respected conservation scientists and conservation groups, Mr Verstick claims his comments would have made it obvious he "supported the conservation of South China [sic] Tigers." This is a further example of lack of candor for he is much more than a mere supporter -- the Save China's Tigers page http://snurl.com/2y4e6 shows that he works for this group as General Manager of its Hong Kong office, and the page http://snurl.com/2y4eo shows he pitches feed-the-tiger annual corporative sponsorships of ca. USD$100,000 each. Given that P.t. amoyensis has not been seen in the wild since 1964 (Shaanxi) and captive individuals have coefficients of inbreeding --a measure of how far genetic drift has progressed-- approaching twice that of the average of all tigers, there is precious little Mr Verstick can actually marshall in support of his empty arguments and hystrionic accusations. I consider amusing the dismissal of the 2004 Tilson's paper in Oryx (a peer-reviewed, conservation scientific journal published by Cambridge University Press) as a "very limited study" by the same person who last year exulted exhuberant, naïve acceptance of the fake tiger's photo manufactured by a Chinese farmer. Regarding the fabricated aspersions Mr Verstick casts on Dr Tilson's proposal, I must say it reminds me of a Spanish aphorism about the mentality of knaves, and speaks volumes of the nastiness of some people. Regarding his silly invitation, I have never met Dr Tilson (but would most pleased if I ever meet the gentleman!) nor I am involved in any plans he might have. I would have thought a communications specialist (as Mr Verstick is described in the page) would not be as lame as to cast aspersions failing to provide at least the most tenuous bit that could remotely 'justify' his innuendo. How silly of me -- I realise now some blokes can not be sufficiently underestimated. Too much has been said about this. I hope the Bank fully implements this initiative.

Submitted by Li Quan on
As founder of Save China’s Tigers I welcomed the World Bank’s decision to support conservation of the world’s endangered tigers. It was with profound shock and regret that I saw South China tiger listed as ‘extinct’ in your report. It has become apparent in this blog that certain participants well-known to this organization have influenced the bank to disregard the opinions of organizations such as IUCN and other respected conservationists on the status of the South China Tiger. It is also apparent that undue importance has been attributed to a single study by Ron Tilson et al. in which Tilson concluded the tiger was ‘functionally extinct’ in the wild. We selected Ron Tilson, invited him to China and co-funded his survey in spite of advice of many individuals from large conservation organizations who told me that Tilson was not suited to do the survey job. However, I choose Tilson because he wrote a paper in 1998 "The Impending extinction of the South China Tigers in the wild", and concluded that he had some interests in helping China resurrecting the South China Tiger. After completion of the study he promptly declared the South China Tigers extinct in the wild in the Vancouver Sun paper, prior to the release of the Oryx report. This conclusion was disputed by the Chinese conservationist who conducted the field study and issued their own report. I have not understood Tilson’s motivations for his unsupported conclusions and rejection of anecdotal evidence. However, his motivations become obvious with his planned "South China Tiger/Indochinese Tiger Reintroduction Project". If, may we ask, he declared the South China Tigers extinct, where would he get the tigers to be introduced to Hupingshan? According to IUCN guidelines, one cannot introduce a species or subspecies unless the local population is considered extinct. Coincidence? I’d like to reprise Tilson’s conclusion from his 1998 article: “The captive population, for better or for worse, may be all that is left against total extinction of this subspecies. To paraphrase the words of a noted environmental philosopher (Leopold, 1953), the first rule of intelligent tinkering is not to throw away any of the pieces.” A premature declaration of extinction for the South China tiger is unconscionable and I strongly urge the World Bank to reassess this unfortunate declaration.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Quote from a reliable source in China: "Dr. Ron Tilson has just left Hupingshan reserve, which is a traditional South China Tiger territory situated in northern Hunan Province. "Dr. Tilson has been discussing with us on the reintroduction of the South China Tigers, as a SECOND STAGE of Save China's Tigers current Rewilding and Reintroduction project. Never before in any discussions he had with Chinese givernment, has Tilson mentioned that he was going to introduce the Indo-Chinese Tigers. In fact, since an Indo-Chinese Tiger was caught on camera trap a couple of years ago, the SFA has engaged Dr. David Smith of Minnesota University on the monitoring and survey of the Wild Indo-Chinese Tigers in China. Our mutual understanding with Tilson is that he investigates the habitat viability of re-introducing the South China Tigers back to a larger natural environment such as Hupingshan, when conditions are right and after the current project with Save China's Tigers has bred and rewilded sufficent numbers of South China Tigers and have ensured they have survived and prospered well in the first stages of the Chinese Tiger Pilot Reserves to be established in Zixi and Liuyang. May I ask you then, where do you suppose that Tilson should obtain the South China Tigers for reintroduction to Hupingshan, should he have declared the wild South China Tigers extinct? And if the captive South China Tigers is considered "not viable" as you claim? And the wild Indo-Chinese Tigers seem to be still surviving well on its own within its traditional territory of several countries and no reintroduction seem to be necessary?"

Submitted by B.C. Albaghetti on
Li Quan tells that too much importance has been attributed to "a single study" (Tilson et al., 2004) that concluded the South China tiger was functionally extinct. Adding she co-funded the survey for such study "in spite of advice of many individuals from large conservation organizations" telling her Tilson was not suited to do the job, she states "I choose [sic] Tilson because he wrote a paper in 1998" on the impending extinction of the tigers in the wild. Curious about these claims, I decided to take a closer look at them (and, no, I have not met Ron Tilson either): - Was Tilson et al. (2004) the only study to claim this tiger was functionally extinct? In Taming the tiger trade (http://preview.tinyurl.com/6nq28h), a 2007 Traffic East Asia report, Nowell & Ling wrote (p.2): "it is generally accepted that the South China Tiger is functionally extinct, there being no viable population (Anon., 2002a; Huang et al., 2003; Breitenmoser et al., 2006; Sanderson et al., 2006)." In Far from a cure: The tiger trade revisited (http://preview.tinyurl.com/5t2ml3), Nowell wrote (p.19): "The South China Tiger is now considered the most endangered Tiger subspecies and is virtually extinct in the wild (Nowell and Jackson, 1996 and Tilson et al., 1997)." (Not to mention p.v, where it says the "population had been virtually exterminated" not long after the tigers were given legal protection in China.) But even if Li Quan were not to read reports from the major conservation groups, one can certainly expect she has read Survey of pre-selected sites in China and recommendation on a pilot reserve for the re-introduction of the Chinese tiger by Anderson, Defu, Hualong, Jun & Stalmans. They write in the Executive Summary (p.4): "The South China tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. amoyensis) has become virtually extinct as a result of past policies and hunting that impacted directly on its numbers and also reduced its prey base." And, to make sure the reader remembers it, they write it again (p.8): "The South China tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. amoyensis) has become virtually extinct as a result of past policies and hunting that impacted directly on its numbers and also reduced its prey base (Lu 1987)." Why do I maintain Ms. Quan must have read this report? Because her own organization commissioned it, and her name (plus phone and e-mail) is given on the cover as a the contact person for enquiries. Two additional elements are germane for understanding the relevance of this report (and the irrelevance of her claim): (1) the report is of January 2004 but Tilson's et al. paper appeared a month later; and (2) Hu Defu (Beijing Forestry Univ.) is a co-author in both publications. What Ms. Quan claims is false at various levels. - Did she receive the "advice of many individuals from large conservation organizations" against Tilson? The website of her organization records her numerous complaints about the negative attention they received from the conservation groups, such as these of April 11, 2003: "Three years ago (early 2000), when I was preparing to set up our organization Save China's Tigers, I had to "beg" tiger conservationists to pay attention to the South China Tiger. [...] Then, I was informed that people who attended the Tiger forum in Russia on the Amur tigers and Amur leopard were "laughing at" me." http://english.savechinastigers.org/node/272 These and other complaints against conservation organizations (coupled with the professional record of Tilson) make her claim quite difficult to believe. In fact, it becomes totally unbelievable after reading the February 14, 2003, entry in that website: "Save China's Tigers is extremely grateful to Dr Tilson and his team, who accepted China's request for specialist assistance when many others had refused." http://english.savechinastigers.org/node/278 So, Ms. Quan's claim is false as well. Her own site indicates Tilson was the only willing to do the survey after others had refused to do it. - Did she "choose Tilson because he wrote a paper in 1998" on the tiger's impending extinction? The paper of Tilson, Traylor-Holzer & Qui (The decline and impending extinction of the South China tiger. Oryx 31:243-252) was published in 1997. What Ms. Quan claims there-- oh, well. Regarding the rest of her posting, I contend it does not deserve more recognition than being another revealing, petty attempt of character assassination of a competitor. Readers interested in what seems an unbiased comparison of Quan's rewilding plans versus Tilson's non-rewilding plans should read the Science piece "Can the Wild Tiger Survive" (317:312-1314) of September 7, 2007. If you do not have personal or institutional access to the magazine's archives, the copyrighted piece is also available at the website Save China's Tiger. http://preview.tinyurl.com/66qas6

Submitted by Leonardo on
Mr.Albaghetti, you yourself appear to be a man of negative energy, I am afraid. Does your good self actually do anything for the tigers? You seem to spend extensive amount of time analyzing and attacking what others do. I wish you can help save the tigers through "analyzing" - maybe you should have a good analysis of yourself

For the first time in five months I'm withholding approval of a comment. Remember that, following our http://eapblog.worldbank.org/content/disclaimer comments and trackback policy, the administrator may do so if s/he finds a comment objectionable. This was starting to spiral down into name-calling. Let's keep it civil, please.

Submitted by B.C. Albaghetti on
Generally speaking, as the admonition of our fair blog administrator proves, you should participate in public debates on non-personal subject matters without attempting to personalize the exchanges by attacking your debaters instead of their arguments, me dear Leonardo. Now, in particular, regarding your comments: (1) Avoid being as sexist as to take for granted my gender. (2) I do more for tigers than linking my name to a forum whose participants are interested in whether tigers beat lions or vice versa. (3) Criticisms about others spending an "extensive time" trying to inform or update themselves about an issue (especially one as important as this for you) simply betray the intellectual laziness of the critics or the projection of their inability to perform the task, or both. (4) I fear that your advising on someone's need for (psycho)analysis in a place like this is ludicrous. I cannot help noticing that what shines in your comment is the absence of evidence supporting your prior claim. Pity.

Submitted by Gary Verstick on
I am accused of working with a conservation group, promoting philanthropy and endorsing the concept of eco-tourism as a means of saving tigers, (endorsed in the World Bank report), indeed I am ‘guilty’ (?) of all these ‘charges’. Mr. Moss attributes “hystrionic (sic) accusations” to me while being unable to garner an intelligible response to my points and queries. His accusation that I am “the same person who last year exulted exhuberant (sic) naïve acceptance of the fake tiger's photo manufactured by a Chinese farmer”, is a total fabrication! I intuited it was a fake on first viewing and was one of the first to demonstrate the tiger’s un-natural consistency from frame to frame using photoshop. Mr. Moss seems positively stunned that a mere ‘knave’ would have the audacity to question the findings of a scientist and repeats his genetics arguments. There is no doubt that the South China tiger is a ‘sick’ patient facing many challenges. Pulling the plug just because the patient is sick seems contrary to the humanity we pretend to possess. While many scientists see no need to ‘muddy’ their findings or conclusions with ethics, it is all the more reason the rest of us ‘blokes’ and organizations like the World Bank should. I’ll give Mr. Moss the benefit of doubt and assume his ‘bloke’ label is referring to “an ordinary, down-to-earth man” definition, and again I am proudly guilty. I am sorry if our defence of these tigers has hurt anybody’s feelings, but I do not apologise for our ‘hot passions’ trying to prevent living tigers being given a death certificate. I sincerely hope the World Bank's Tiger Initiative does grow and succeed, embracing all endangered tigers.

Submitted by T.E. Moss on
My response is limited to a single point. As recently shown here by B.C. Albaghetti, putting claims to the test provides some insight on their nature. Gary Verstick's asserts it is a fabrication he is "the same person who last year exulted exhuberant (sic) naïve acceptance of the fake tiger's photo" released last year. What is important in debating this point is the underlying issue of scientific scepticism being needed in the implementation of an endeavour to protect threatened species. http://snurl.com/30a5d links to a blog's thread started on 15th October 2007, about the photo of a S.C. tiger spotted in the wild (later proven to be a fraud). The first comment was posted by Mr Verstick on the next day: he did not raise any doubt or suspicion about the picture there; rather he displayed on-your-face exuberance about it. By that time, however, serious concerns had already been raised about the authenticity of the photo (as shown by the next comment posted a few hours after Verstick's). The controversy made headlines in China two days later: http://snurl.com/30ac1 . The assertion of having been "one of the first to demonstrate the tiger’s un-natural consistency from frame to frame using photoshop" is in conflict with the information provided by the above cited article of China Daily or by the Beijing Review's Top Story of 22nd January 2008, http://snurl.com/30adp, both of which say that all that the Forestry Administration officials of Shaaanxi released first (on 12th October 2007) was one photograph, a picture which aroused concerns in on-line forums. Unlike videos, a digital photo is a still image and does not have more than one frame. (By the time further images were released, thus allowing for comparisons between them, the sceptics were long beyond being the first ones.) But the claim is in conflict with more than being "one the first" -- it would be news if the Hong Kong's general manager and a communications specialist of a group trying to save the tiger disputed the photo. Alas, the Web reveals none of this: http://snurl.com/30as0 . Oddly, the same occurs in the site of Mr Verstick's group: there is there a comment by a 'Gary' announcing the news of the photo (http://snurl.com/30at7), but there is no statement later from an representative of this group (or 'Gary') denouncing the fraud. Weeks later, Ms. Li Quan was using phrases such as "regardless of the authenticity of the photo": http://snurl.com/30avm Cheers

Submitted by Anonymous on
I am a biologist interested in issues of taxonomy not associated with conservation group. While Verstick is confused about authorship attribution, blaming the World Bank report of Damania et al. for what a figure reproduced from Wikramanayake et al.[in press] says, the fact remains that this figure indeed has a label assigning P. t. ssp. amoyensis the status of extinct. Whitten gives the reference for that work in press to appear in the 2nd edition of Tigers of the World, adding "[t]his has many of the foremost names in tiger conservation attached to it and we regard it as an authoritative source of information." The problem with this statement is, as Whitten surely knows as a wildlife biologist, is that assigning the status of a taxon to one of the various IUCN categories -- such as extinct (EX), extinct in the wild (EW), critically endangered (CR), etc -- depends on the results of surveys as well as the strict application of the criteria established by the IUCN. Neither to do field surveys nor to apply IUCN criteria one needs be a foremost name. Whitten does not specify the reasons Wikramanayake et al. give, if any, for assigning the EX status to this tiger. I am of the opinion it is a mistake to do so. Currently the 2007 update of the Red List of Threatened Species lists P.t.ssp. amoyensis as having the status CR/D, admittedly a 1996 assessment with the notation "needs updating." So, given the results of the 1990-1991 survey of Koehler (when no tigers were seen but some acceptable signs were found) and the 2001-2002 survey of Tilson et al. (when no tigers were seen and only a few debatable signs were found), can the CR/D status be updated to EX? In my opinion, the answer is no and my reasons are as follows. The guidelines for using the Red List categories, currently version 6.2 http://tinyurl.com/IUCN-guidelines state: "A taxon is Extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died." And then add: "A taxon is presumed Extinct when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat [...], throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycles and life form." Firstly, there are South China tigers in captivity (at least some individuals having been shown to be genetically distinct from other subspecies, Luo et al. 2004), so the tiger is NOT extinct. Secondly, the cited surveys were neither completely exhaustive nor they covered the full tiger's historic range (while their separation time was shorter than the expected life of tigers in the wild), so the tiger CAN NOT be presumed extinct. Not now. Further surveys with more IR-camera traps throughout all regions of the historic range are called for. I do not condone the innuendo of Verstick or Li against Tilson in any form, nor I share in their accusations against the Bank or other groups. But their claim that the South China tiger does not have an EX status -- as opposed to its current CR/D one, or its probably deserved upgrade to EW in the future -- ought not to have been dismissed by the blogger with a cursory statement (and much less with a fallacy ad verecundiam!), instead of parsing and discussing appropriate categories and respective criteria. Scientific questions must be dealt with in a logical manner. I must add I'd had never expected to find a debate on taxonomy, no less, in a blog of the World Bank. It was a wonderful surprise and I happy to have found a link that brought me here. Good blogging, people.

Submitted by Gary Verstick on
Once again Mr. Moss demonstrates his mind-numbing skills at googling, coupled with an amazing ability to distort facts. He conveniently chooses to omit stories on the SCT website referring to the ‘paper tiger’. He posts a comment I made, in reference to someone’s suggestion that (if a South China tiger was found) it was of no significance and uses this as proof I thought the photo real. His ‘one frame’ argument is nonsense - I examined as many as 9 frames that were circulating on the Chinese internet within a week of the photo’s release. Mr. Moss also fails to mention that it was SCT who arranged for the photo to be supplied to Science magazine (Nov. 9/2007) who ran it under the title “Flat cat?”. The article also examined netcitizen and scientific scepticism of the ‘paper tiger’. Apparently because he can’t find my opinions on the fake photos on google, their omission must be proof that I believed the photo as real. Based on the same investigative logic, I have discovered by googling “T.E. Moss” that he in-fact does not exist. Cheers

Didn't want to step in, but thought i have to. In 2004, a paper has been published, and is the one based off the latest molecular research. The name of this paper is "Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris)" and I will describe it briefly. The paper is a collaboration of the world's leading tiger experts, such as Melvin Sunquist, Ullas K Karanth, and Dale G Miquelle. This was based off the latest genetic research based on blood, skin, hair, and/or skin biopsies of 134 tigers which known geographic origins. The study concludes that there are six subspecies of modern tigers alive today, the (1) Amur tiger; (2) northern Indochinese tiger; (3) South China tiger; (4) Malayan tiger; (5) Sumatran tiger; and (6) Bengal tiger P. t. tigris. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=534810#pbio-0020442-Kitchener1 This paper can be found here if your interested in reading up on it. It is the largest study of its kind to date with tiger. So this clearly proves that South China Tigers are not extinct(at least in captivity), based on the latest molecular research. As for South China Tigers in the wild, there are numerous sightings and pugmark evidences in the past by Villagers, but unfortunately no sighting during the census. However as Ron Tilson mentioned"It would be impossible to say every single South China tiger is gone. There may be single tigers or a scattered few still alive, but we have concluded that there is no viable population left.". So there is clearly no reason to prove that South China Tigers are extinct. --Raphael Heng

Submitted by Anonymous on
Hello again. Heng invokes the phylogenetics study of Luo et al. [2004], which I mentioned in my anonymous comment of July 17 (Re: Source of " 1990s - South China tiger extinct"), as proof this subspecies of tiger is not extinct. With all due respect, I find his approach uninformed. The South China tiger is a subspecies traditionally identified on phenetic-like morphological grounds (such as body size, skull shape, pelage, striping patterns) as well as geopolitical reasons. To prove that a subspecies thus defined is not extinct ALL is needed is to find tigers alive satisfying the defining subspecies criteria, and derived from geographically verified ancestors. This is the case of South China tigers living in captivity in Chinese zoos. Had Luo's et al. work been based on specimens taken immediately after, say, the last remaining South China tiger(s) had died, the molecular results would have not changed even though the subspecies had just become extinct. I am not trying to detract from that study; so far, it provides the best genetically-based cladistics approach to the question of tiger subspecies (download it from http://biology.plosjournals.org/archive/1545-7885/2/12/pdf/10.1371_journal.pbio.0020442-L.pdf here). Interestingly, its results are a double-edged sword in the debate on the South China tiger. (What Heng does not seem to realize, assuming he has read the study, is that his apparent side of the debate has the more to lose from the paper he cites.) On the one hand, the population genetic structure data of Lou et al. yields cladistics evidence supporting not only the current 5-subspecies arrangement, but an additional subspecies as well (separating the Northern Indochina tigers into P.t. corbetti I and corbetti II clusters. This is a blow to the position of Tilson, Traylor-Holzer and Brady, based on 1986 data, that there is no compelling non-geopolitical reason to separate tigers into such a scheme ("Management and Conservation of Captive Tigers," 2nd ed., 1994). On the other hand, these data depict a mongrel picture of the traditional classification of the South China tigers whose samples were used in the study and, by extension, other captive individuals: of 5 such tigers, 2 could be distinguished from those of other subspecies, but the remaining 3 could not. The former lineage, in my opinion, is proof this tiger is not extinct in phylogenetic and morphological classification terms. The latter lineage, say the authors, "was indistinguishable from northern Indochinese tigers [...] perhaps as a consequence of introgression of the northern Indochinese tigers into the Chinese captive population or a more-northern distribution of [these] tigers than had previously been recognized." This is a worse blow to the Save China's Tigers group; it preempts its criticism of Tilson's reintroduction plans, and affects its own rewilding plans (since it is not known if their few tigers are genetically distinguishable from Indochinese ones). Perhaps due to the need to affirm the phylogenetic uniqueness of the South China tiger by further research, the subspecies was not included in the recent study of "Subspecies Genetic Assignments of Worldwide Captive Tigers" of Luo et al., 2008 (download it from http://download.current-biology.com/pdfs/0960-9822/PIIS096098220800434X.pdf here).

Submitted by B.C. Albaghetti on
The depiction by Raphael Heng of the results of the study he cites is rather misleading. Two things become immediately clear after reading the paper of Luo et al. (2004) on the phylogeography and genetics of tigers: how few South China tigers were studied and how unclear is the phylogenetic status of this subspecies. Of a sample of 134 tigers verified as either wild-born from a specific geographic locale or captive-born from geographically verified wild-born parents (voucher specimens) 5 were vouched as South China tigers. Of them, only 2 were phylogenetically different from other tiger subspecies, i.e., a lineage that would reflect a unique tiger genetic ancestry; the remaining 3 vouched tigers were phylogenetically indistinguishable from northern Indochina tigers. Given their small sample and muddled genetic picture of the captive individuals morphologically identified as South China tigers, any conclusion of how many such tigers are there must be tempered by the following warning: [O]ur data suggest that there are at least five and possibly six tiger subspecies: Amur tigers (P. t. altaica); northern Indochinese tigers (P. t. corbetti I); southern Indochinese tigers (P. t. corbetti II), which are confined to the Malayan Peninsula; Sumatran tigers (P. t. sumatrae); Bengal tigers (P. t. tigris); and, if its uniqueness is affirmed by more extensive sampling, South China tiger (P. t. amoyensis) [Luo et al.(2004), p.2287, my emphasis]. In addition, young Mr Heng cannot be considered impartial in this debate because he is a team member of Save China's Tigers. Although he did not disclose this relevant information -- is this a trend among such members or what? --, he is listed as Heng Siang Wei in the SCT site as a volunteer who "has been reading up about conservation and wildlife since 2005" and "aspires to be a tiger conservationist when he grow[s] up" http://tinyurl.com/SCT-volunteer (As Raphael Heng, he is also listed as an expert with expertise in "anything about Big Cats, especially Tigers" in http://tinyurl.com/the-expert ... Caveat questor.)

Submitted by K.C. on
In the July 20 comment discussing his or her position on the status of the Chinese tiger, Anonymous pushes the envelope of the criteria for extinction of a taxon, by distinguishing between "phenetic-like" morphological and genetically-based cladistics identifications. It is a reasonable viewpoint likely to become prevalent as more marker studies are performed. Clearly, by the traditional morphological identification this tiger is not extinct since there are a few tens of them in zoos of China. The quid of the problem, however, is the genetic 'purity' of these captive tigers. At least two separate studies (Luo et al. in PLoS Biol 2004, and Wei et al. in J Nat Hist. 2005) have found different haplotypes - i.e., sets of linked genetic markers on one chromosome that are transmitted together - in such tigers, and one study also found that one haplotype set of the (presumed) Chinese tigers could not be distinguished genetically from those of Indochinese tigers (Luo et al., 2004). So, if we use both morphological and phylogenetical uniqueness for an extinction criteria, as noted by Anonymous, all we have at this time is just 2 Chinese tigers alive having a presumed original amoyensis ancestry. The issue is more complex than some conservation enthusiasts, not to mention entrepreneurs, seem to believe.

Submitted by T.E. Moss on
B.C. Albaghetti described Raphael Heng's comments about the 2004 Luo's et al. paper as rather misleading. That description is too generous. It is not only that Heng presented here just about the opposite of the findings and conclusions of Luo and coworkers on tiger subspecies, but his entire participation in this blog is a sad example of how the Save China's Tigers (SCA) enterprise operates. EAPblog readers beware Raphael Heng is one of the aliases of a 15-year old Singaporean in secondary school, who on September 2007 officially became a team member of SCT working in online activities. Besides reading about tigers and debating imagined tiger vs. lion fights, this adolescent has been active in 'agit-prop' duties for SCT in Wikipedia, YouTube, and discussion boards dealing with big cats. As noted by Albaghetti, he also presents itself as a tiger expert in the AllExperts site, where he emphasizes the SCT and his link with this organization. Despite his claim of not wanting to step in, http://english.savechinastigers.org/sctteam Raphael Heng Sinag Wei (alias http://www.allexperts.com/ep/3675-86032/Tigers/Raphael-Heng.htm Raphael Heng; alias http://www.care2.com/c2c/people/profile.html?pid=647393426 Raphael H.; alias http://tiger-tigris.leotigriselite.yuku.com/ Adam/Tiger Tigris; alias http://profiles.friendster.com/leotigris LeoTigris; alias http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:China%27s_Tiger China's Tiger; alias http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk%3ALeoGard&diff=159358447&oldid=159333498 Leogard; alias another http://my.care2.com/leogard Leogard; and alias http://www.youtube.com/user/PTigris7 PTigris7, besides social-networks aliases there is no need to mention), had already stepped in here twice as http://eapblog.worldbank.org/content/hot-passion-tigers-and-shoe-shops#comment-175 Leonardo, linking this false name to a big-cat discussion board where Heng is active under a different alias. Creating fake debate participants here may have even seemed a joke to Heng; after all, he is just a 15 year old who considers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV as the best movie. Nevertheless, he is http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=12960&pst=538656 in charge of mostly online activities of SCT (or was told something to that effect). It is fair to ask therefore to what extent the attitude of this minor reflects that of the SCT adults guiding him. For sure, his failure to disclose here that he works for SCT has been mirrored by others who appeared as if they had nothing to do with that organization. It is outrageous SCT would allow a 15-year old working for them to appear as a tiger expert in an otherwise presumably serious website; with truly cockamanee credentials, Heng has even seen fit to tackle questions about doctorates in wildlife biology. Ultimately, the deceiving tactics of this amateurish organization endangers the credibility of each and all tiger protection efforts.

This (sadly) anonymous response has some good points. When I use the term 'extinct', 'endangered' or 'vulnerable' I do so without a firm definition in mind. When I wish to tie the word to the formal IUCN definition I capitalize the initial letter (as in the IUCN definition of Extinct quoted by Anonymous above). Since a blog is supposed to be written to a broad audience I did not use the term 'extinct' in the IUCN sense because most readers would not be familiar with the defnitions and implications which have been so clearly demonstrated in all these responses. I used it more in the sense of 'extinct in the wild' since this is what I personally believe to be the case. As to whether the Wikramanayake et al. would be better advised to use a different term in their figure and perhaps to tie that to a formal IUCN definition, I'll take up with him. I'm pleased that this taxonomic debate has been a pleasant surprise. Taxonomy in the Bank is rare but we have been able to give support here and there. The most taxonomic report is the fundamental 'Fishes of Mongolia' ( http://tinyurl.com/5fdgn2) and we produced a similar one in northern Vietnam. In the foreword to that, the Bank's Vietnam Country Director and the Environment Sector Director for East Asia and the Pacific wrote: "This is the first time such a report has been published by the World Bank, but we do so in recognition of the foundational role of taxonomy in sustainable development, of the importance of freshwater biodiversity in the lives of the riparian people of Vietnam (many of them among the poorest of the citizens), and of the need to understand the biological resources for rational planning". Related to this is the program of local language field guides which Kathy MacKinnon and I have worked on at the Bank. We have enabled 111 titles to get published. These will be the subject of a later blog but some (slightly out of date) information can be found here (http://tinyurl.com/55trog) and here (http://tinyurl.com/5m35fo).

You know? We've been looking for a blog producer for some time and, now that we just made someone an offer, turns out that a good candidate might have been right under our nose all this time... Nice job!

Submitted by Stuart Bray on
I am Stuart Bray, Chairman of Save China's Tigers. I write here on behalf of that organization. I have been told that one of our young volunteers posted comments on this blog. Save China's Tigers did not ask him to post. He did not ask for permission to post. He did not tell us he was posting. There is nothing remarkable about this. Indeed, he has no obligation to clear his comments submitted in a personal capacity. Nor do I have the right to regulate his comments. If he were to ask for my advice, I would encourage him to participate in this, or any other forum, that discusses topics of interest to him. I would encourage him to keep his objective clearly in mind, to share his thoughts honestly, logically, and humbly. I would tell him to expect criticism and to consider carefully any criticism of his ideas. If he sees merit in the criticism, do not be afraid to acknowledge it even if it means admitting a mistake. Equally, do not be afraid to stand your ground if your honest judgement leads you to that conclusion. This is easy advice to give and hard to follow. I often fall short of it myself. Even without my advice, he ticked most of the boxes admirably.

Submitted by T.E. Moss on
Posted as a response to my prior posting, the comment of Stuart Bray, co-founder and chairman of the SCT group, does not address the issues about the (literally) multifaceted 15 year old who is an official team member of this group. Mr Bray opens by saying he has been told a volunteer posted comments in this blog, therefore indicating that at the time of his writing he had not read the comments Siang Wei Heng posted here (as either the fictitious Leonardo or the pseudo-expert Raphael Heng). Oddly, he then proceeds to dissociate from the comments he has not read, and does so in not just one but three different ways. Having done that, he launches in paternal-like advice not less inspiring for being a complete non sequitur, and finishes expressing admiration for the child. In his odd passade, Mr Bray fails to advice his youngest team member that it is intellectually dishonest for an adolescent to pass for a "tiger expert" in a Web site (in which he emphasizes his affiliation with Bray's group), where visitors are conned into thinking they are asking questions to a real tiger expert, some of which deal even with matters about degrees in biology. To put it in terms of Mr Bray's profession, it is akin to the teller of a bank passing himself for an expert financial consultant affiliated with the bank. Whether the SCT Chairman [1] disapproves of this misleading activity by an official SCT team member, but decides he does not have the right to regulate what the member claims in public while acknowledging affiliation with SCT, or [2] does not care about or even approves this attitude (which, one should note, provides SCT free advertisement in someone else's site), the sad fact remains that these amateurish and deceiving tactics endanger the credibility of tiger protection organizations in the public eye.

I haven't been here for a long time but it seems that my name has been mentioned numerous times. Hello there T.E. Moss, What should i call this? Google misinformaton or over-reliant on Search engines? Many of those alias you claim that i am, isn't me at all. I admit that i am Raphael Heng on allexperts.com, and China's Tiger on Wikipedia, and again Raphael Heng on care2 But i am neither Leogard, nor Adam, nor Ptigris7 or some other names you have mentioned. I would like to mention that there are many Volunteers of Save China's Tigers worldwide, particularly in China. All of the Save China's Tigers' rewilding dairies are translated into Chinese by Volunteers, this is to ensure that more funding would go into the field work. Save China's Tigers have very few paid staff as we want to ensure more money goes to where the mouth is. That is why, I (HSW) support SCT. That is why many volunteers support SCT. If you had asked me whether i was a volunteer of Save China's Tigers, i would admit that i am, i have never denied that i am a volunteer there, but the point is that you didn't ask and assumed i was hiding about that fact. Did i mention that i was once a volunteer of Big Cat Rescue? aAd also Bear Creek Sanctuary? If you had ask, i would mention all those names earlier too. I would be happy to work for you (Mr. or Ms. Moss), if you can tell me that the organizations you are working for are also taking effective measure to benefit the tigers just like Save China's Tigers. I am indeed a teenager and i do have interests like many other teenagers, including watching teenage mutant ninja turles movies. What's wrong with that? To judge a person by the movies he enjoys watching really seems like a desperate attempt to defame that particular person. Don't you agree? Anyway, regarding allexperts, let me just inform you on a fact, i wanted to leave Allexperts some time ago, but the Administrator of the site asked me to stayed, i obliged to her request. If you have taken note and researched throughly, you would have known that even on my "Allexperts" profile, i have clearly mentioned that i am a "Student, currently studying about Animal biology, specifically on felines.", which suggests that i am quite young, that is if you do understand the meaning of the word "Student". I have never once denied my age, nor claim to be a true expert, but i do believe that it is good and wise to share, just like our Chinese saying:"失比受还有福”, especially something as priceless as knowledge. I can give you many other names of "Experts" on allexperts wo are neither older than me nor more knowledgeable than me. Why don't you research, elaborate and defame all of them? So tell me, what did you search on google? "Volunteer of Save China's Tigers"? Or "Raphael Heng"? If you searched Raphael Heng on google, many names pops up including a Raphael Heng who is a project manager also in Singapore: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Raphael/Heng?trk=ppro_find_others , another Raphael Heng on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Raphael_Heng/676519139 , so am i all of them? PS: I did not mention that i am "in charge of most online activities of SCT". Perhaps you misunderstood or i did not elaborate on it clearly(If the latter was the case, i sincerely apologise as this could be considered solely my fault), I meant that all i do(my only job) as a volunteer of Save China's Tigers is to help with online activities, and have never really been to Laohu Valley and have never worked practically(as in hands-on - personally) for Save China's Tigers. Have a nice day ---Raphael Heng

Submitted by T.E. Moss on
Although the debate about tigers in the EAP blog has gone beyond the Bank's tiger initiative and the clarification of the status of some wild tigers, it is still useful in providing a written record of the claims and viewpoints of participants. It may be of help in the assessment of plans from competing tiger conservation groups. The current blog debate goes beyond willy-nilly exchanges, and illuminates spurious tactics in use by some individuals in the tiger protection movement. Responding to my comment of 23rd July last, Siang Wei Heng, the Singaporean adolescent and official member of Save China's Tigers (SCT) who writes here under the alias Raphael Heng, asserts: "i am neither Leogard, nor Adam, nor Ptigris7 or some other names you have mentioned." In the lines below, I demonstrate with verifiable evidence that such statement is utterly FALSE. Worse yet, it is coupled to Heng's efforts in the last few days to ERASE from the Web the very information he now denies. I hope the blog administrators will allow in all fairness my response on this matter. • The aliases Raphael H. and Leogard On 27th July 2007, in the South China Tiger Project forum of Care2.com, the participant Raphael H., also known as Leogard (both with the same Care2 ID 647393426), wrote a message titled "wikipedia" (http://snurl.com/3aq2i) where he says: « i was the leogard in wikipedia and i was the one who uploaded the pic in the south china tiger section of wikipedia. » Later, in the message titled "Gary" of 26th September 2007 in the same blog, Raphael H. further identifies himself as Heng, posting his profile from the SCT team homepage (see it half-way down the page http://snurl.com/3aq2i). Following the publication of my comment of 23rd July, Heng quickly started to erase those profiles he had created for his aliases, including the one for Raphael H./Leogard (see http://snurl.com/3aq78). He has been foiled, however, by the cached pages Google maintains: a copy of the original profile can be seen in http://snurl.com/3aq91 • The aliases Leotigris and Ptigris7 Heng also had other reasons for erasing the profile for Raphael H./Leogard -- it not only gives the correct information about his hometown and birthday, but his profile as Leotigris in Friendster.com as well. In that profile, Leotigris identified himself as Heng, posting his "profile on the SCT homepage"; he also gave his "Care2 profile" as Leogard, and his "new Youtube account" as Ptigris7. Though Heng has recently erased the Leotigris profile, a search with relevant keywords shows that, in the original text, Heng admits being Leotigris, Leogard, and Ptigris7. The following are search results with the keywords Heng and Ptigris7 (http://snurl.com/3aqb6): « Anyway, here is my profile on SCT homepage Heng Siang Wei Volunteer [...] Here is my new youtube account profile: http://www.youtube.com/user/PTigris7 [...] » Heng's deceptiveness in falsely asserting he is not Ptigris7 is part and parcel of recent changes in the profile of Ptigris7 in YouTube.com to make it look like as if it belongs to a Chinese named Guan Yu (关羽). See the trumped-up text changes in http://snurl.com/3aqej. The Google's cache copy of the original text, however, reveals this was a fraudulent change: Ptigris7 is no-one else but this Singaporean "who hopes to be a tiger conservationist in the future" (see original profile in http://snurl.com/3aqev). • The aliases Tiger tigris and Adam Heng has participated in the LeoTigrisElite forum of Yuku.com with the alias Tiger tigris, in whose profile "Adam" was entered as the user's name. On 24th November 2007, describing a cub birth in the SCT's South Africa enclave, Tiger tigris wrote (http://snurl.com/3aqgg): « I was told to spread this to as many forums as possible and as soon as possible by Ms Li Quan, so here it is!! [...] » This message reveals that Tiger tigris (Adam) is Heng -- the entire message is exactly the *same* text Heng had posted as Raphael H. a short time earlier the *same* day, under the title Cub Born!, in another forum (see it towards the end of the page http://snurl.com/3aq2i). Once again, Heng's false denial is accompanied by a recent change of the profile of Tiger tigris' user "Adam" in Yuku.com, to make it look like as if the user is a 29 year old man from Shangai (see the trumped-up changes in http://snurl.com/3aqik). But such change is a lie. The Google's cache copy shows that the original profile listed Adam, with no age given, from Singapore and not China (see original profile in http://snurl.com/3aqjm). . Heng *is* Raphael H., Leogard, Leotigris, Ptigris7, Adam, and Tiger tigris, among the various aliases he has used. Further, he embarked in a campaign to erase from the Web the very same information he denies now. This shows that his message was written with the intent to deceive and therefore, more than just false, it IS A LIE. It ought to be clear by now this teenager likes to deceive, and he does so with the explicit admiration of his adult supervisors at SCT. Regarding his other equally false denials, in the message titled "Gary" of 26th September 2007 (mentioned above), Heng, writing as Raphael H., tells another adolescent of having joined SCT and then adds (http://snurl.com/3aq2i): « I am in charge of mostly online activities [...] » So much for that. Finally, in relation to his "tiger expert" homepage at the AllExperts site, Heng claims that since he wrote "student, currently studying about Animal biology" as credentials, this can be taken to indicate he is "quite young". That is disingenuous rubbish. His ambiguous description is much more likely to be taken to signify a university student than a 15 year-old kid in secondary school. If it quacks like a tiger... Cheers T.E. Moss

Dear readers, For technical reasons not related to the EAP blog, we've had to deactivate the rich-text feature in comments. Some of you included html tags in your messages, but we can't allow them from now on. This particular thread was one of those making most use of html tags, and they had to be stripped down. One posting in particular, the tag cloud on this thread, had to be removed completly --sorry about that, I really liked the creativity. URLs included in comments will still work as links, though: make sure you use a full URL (beginning with http://) and that you do NOT put them inside square brackets [ ], because those will deactivate the link (and it won't be clickable). Thanks for your cooperation. UPDATE Aug. 5, 2008: it looks like full urls do NOT work as links after all. Checking on this and hoping to revert it. UPDATE Aug. 8, 2008: yes, full urls can be set to work like links, but I have to do that manually when approving the comment. So I'll try to. Hope things go back to more normal soon.

Submitted by B.C. Albaghetti on
This extremely active debate (surpassing the readers' interest of any other World Bank blog I have seen so far) has had an impact beyond this blog, and now has reached the Save China's Tigers (SCT) site itself. The various postings by T.E. Moss about Heng Siang Wei, the minor who is an official SCT team member, have brought a significant change in their website. A comparison of the current SCT team's page (• http://preview.tinyurl.com/new-SCTteam •) with a Google cache copy of July 30, 2008 (• http://preview.tinyurl.com/SCTteam-before •) of the same page shows only one change in its list of members profiles: Heng's profile was edited last week. He is now described as having "been reading up about conservation and wildlife since young"(!), while in the prior profile he had been doing that "since 2005." In addition, despite the admiration expressed here by the SCT president for Heng's propaganda efforts, the new profile discards his primary school SCT job credentials. No longer one is informed that "He is good in IT skills and has been an AVA(audio-video adviser) in his primary school" or that "He spread about the plight and conservation of tigers in school, forums, by putting up stories on his profile page in several sites, edited several pages on wikipedia and even creates videos on youtube to showcase the plight of tigers." The SCT thus seems to be trying to give their 15-year-old boy volunteer the patina of young adult. Tsk, tsk. I should add that having checked the links presented by T.E. Moss, I agree with his or her conclusions: sadly, Heng tried to deceive the EAP blog. Not only he lied about not being behind his numerous cyber-puppets, including 'Leonardo' in this blog, but his recent feverish editing of their respective profiles (either to remove information that contradicted his denials or substitute with false information) shows profound bad faith as well.

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