Last week's Radio Times featured an article by Chris Packham (link opens in a new window) suggesting that huge amounts of scarce conservation funding have been wasted on trying to save the tiger from extinction. It is a fascinating and overall pretty good assessment of the situation.
Around 30 years ago I gave a paper at the annual conference of the British Association for the Advancement of Science on the theme of Future Extinctions. In this paper I pointed out that some species, including the California Condor, Giant Panda and Orang-utan were relicts of a Pleistocene Fauna, and as such were probably doomed to extinction; their range had been contracting for thousands of years and would probably continue to do so until they disappeared. Was it right to spend millions of dollars trying to prevent the inevitable, shouldn't we let them disappear gracefully?
I was at that time the chief executive of what is now Fauna & Flora International. The reaction to this paper - which to put it into its context was given at a Paleontology session, was pretty hysterical, and led to my chairman (Lord Craighton) being phoned by the chairman of WWF with demands for my resignation for being so apparently irresponsible. Lord Craighton defended my position robustly, and after a flurry of correspondence in The Times, it was all forgotten.
Now nearly three decades on, while I still believe that some species are really past their sell by date, I have modified my views somewhat. I do think that tigers can survive, but only if we increase the area available, and also increase the corridors between them. Next time I see Chris Packham there should be an interesting discussion.