The verdict is in, and the path to saving critically endangered tigers is becoming clear.
Rather than attempting to protect vast landscapes around the world, a new study says that conservationists should focus on safeguarding tiger populations in a few concentrated Asian breeding grounds.
The strategy will allow tigers to repopulate outlying areas later, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS Biolog.
Concentrating on breeding grounds is "absolutely necessary right now if we are to save tigers in the wild," said Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera, a tiger conservation group.
As few as 3,200 tigers are left in the wild today—less than one-third of them breeding females.
To put this in perspective, the big cats now occupy less than 7 percent of their historical range.
According to the BBC:
Conservation would benefit from concentrating efforts into still smaller areas—specifically, into 42 "source sites" that make up only about 6% of the tiger's current range, or about 0.5% of the area it used to span.
Of these 42 areas, "18 are located in India—the country with the most tigers, eight in Indonesia, six in Russia's Far East and the others scattered elsewhere in Asia," reports Time.
John Robinson, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the BBC that a number of these "source cites" are already protected.
"However, in many of them the protection is weak, and it would not take much to push them over the edge," he said.
The plan's price tag—$82 million—would go toward increased law enforcement and security of the 42 areas, mostly to keep poachers out.