Home / Politics / Policy /  Global tiger count rises, after a century of steady decline

New Delhi: The big cat is clawing back, a century since its numbers started slipping.

About 100,000 tigers roamed the forests of the world in 1900, but their numbers dwindled steadily, hitting a low of 3,200 in 2010 when the last estimates were compiled.

But a new count shows the number of tigers in the wild at 3,890, with India being home to 2,226, or more than half of them.

The report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a non-governmental organization working for animal conservation, and the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) says the increase can be attributed to a rise in the tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, and factors such as improved surveys and enhanced protection.

“For the first time after decades of constant decline, tiger numbers are on the rise. This offers us great hope and shows that we can save species and their habitats when the governments, local communities and conservationists work together," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.

In 2010, governments of tiger range countries—where tigers roam in the wild—agreed to act to double wild tigers by the next Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2022 and this goal is known as Tx2.

After India comes Russia (433 tigers), Indonesia (371), Malaysia (250) and Nepal (198).

Tiger numbers in Bangladesh fell sharply from 440 in 2010 to 106 in 2015. The report specifies that this may be due to an over-estimation of the population in 2010 and not necessarily a real decline in the population. It also noted that it is impossible to say whether Bangladesh’s tiger population has increased or decreased in the last six years.

The report also revealed that Malaysia has undertaken its first nationwide tiger survey, while Myanmar is mulling the development of a new tiger action plan, which will include recommendations for surveys and protection measures in selected priority sites.

In China, evidence of tigers is only found in northeast China in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.

A field survey of Heilongjiang “province is underway with results expected later in 2016. Preliminary results indicate a promising increase in numbers," the report added.

Tigers are specified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. They face threats from poaching and habitat loss. Statistics from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that parts of a minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized by the law enforcement officials between January 2000 and April 2014 across tiger range countries; the big cats were feeding a multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade.

News of an increase in tiger numbers comes a day ahead of the third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Around 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders are expected to take part in the event to discuss the issues related to tiger conservation.

GTF’s secretary general and former chief of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority Rajesh Gopal said:“This is a critical meeting taking place at the halfway point in the Tx2 goal.... Tiger governments will decide the next steps towards achieving this goal and ensuring wild tigers have a place in Asia’s future."

According to Michael Baltzer, leader of WWF Tx2 Tiger Initiative, “A strong action plan for the next six years is vital. The global decline has been halted, but there is still no safe place for tigers. South-East Asia, in particular, is at imminent risk of losing its tigers if these governments do not take action immediately."

Interestingly, the actual number of tigers could be higher than 3,890 as not all countries have completed or published population figures of their tigers.

As per the WWF-GTF report, national scale surveys have not been undertaken in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.

In January 2015, India published its tiger population census revealing that the number of tigers in India increased by 30% since 2010 to 2,226 in 2014.

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