Are Wild Tiger Numbers Increasing?

For the first time in a long time, tiger experts are seeing rays of hope in the population trends of these large cats.

5. Overview

A rare bit of good news in the field of wildlife conservation comes as the tiger numbers of the world appear to be increasing, at least per a 2016 report by World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum. The last global census on tigers have estimated the wild tiger population of the world to be 3,890, up from the 3,200 figure of 2010, when tiger numbers in the world hit an all time low. This is the first time in 100 years that a rise in tiger population has been achieved, providing a reason to rejoice. Since 1900, when nearly 100,000 wild tigers were estimated to populate the planet, every year of the 20th Century had witnessed a dramatic decline in the population of this majestic beast. However, the present results proves the fact that firm determination and co-operation among local communities, conservationists and political powers can help us save the species of the world.

4. Estimating Tiger Population Sizes

With recent advances in modern technology, the countries with wild tiger populations have been able to estimate the tiger numbers more scientifically and accurately than ever before. The tigers of today are counted on the basis of various newly developed scientific methods. One of these methods involves identifying individual tigers on the basis of their stripe patterns which are as unique to an individual tiger as is fingerprints in case of humans. The installation of camera traps in the jungles which captures pictures upon motion detection, have also helped capture photographs of tigers in the wild to help in their identification. DNA collected from tiger scat also allows DNA fingerprinting to help identify tigers. All these techniques have helped measure the wild tiger population of the world. India, with its 2,226 tigers, is presently leading the world in tiger numbers, hosting more that half of the world’s tiger population. Russia follows next with 433 tigers. The biggest progress has been achieved in the countries of India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan where the rise in tiger numbers is quite significant.

3. What's Bolstering the Rise?

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) attributes a range of factors to be responsible for the rise in tiger numbers. The initiative to conserve tigers experienced a major boost in 2010 when, shocked by the dramatic decline in tiger population, the leaders of the member nations of the Global Tiger Forum adopted a goal, the Tiger Initiative, to double the number of tigers by 2022. This was followed by mass scale awareness events in countries like India where public from all corners of the country were inspired to voice out their concerns to save the tigers. The governments of the nations, feeling the pressure from public and conservationists, started funding and implementing tiger conservation strategies and plans in these countries. Bringing more territory under protected status and implementing stringent anti-poaching efforts were some of the measures adopted to protect tigers. All these, together with the efforts of non-governmental organizations like the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the development of advanced scientific technologies to monitor tiger populations, led to the significant improvement in tiger populations.

2. Areas Lagging Behind

However, though tiger numbers have increased, not all nations are doing well. The south-east Asian nations have struggled the most in maintaining their wild tiger populations. Many of these nations do not even have their own method of conducting a tiger census and badly lag behind in implementing tiger conservation measures. Tigers in Cambodia have become completely extinct in the wild and in China, Laos, and Vietnam, the population is in single digits. In countries like Indonesia, vast areas of tiger habitat has been lost to palm oil , paper and pulp production. Indiscriminate poaching for tiger parts has also prevented the growth of tiger populations in these countries.

1. Looking Towards the Future

The rising tiger numbers in India, Russia, Bhutan, and Nepal should act as an inspiration for future conservation efforts in other countries. The conservation efforts to save wild tigers, the top carnivores of the forest ecosystems in which they reside, helps to actually conserve the entire forest and all its flora and fauna species. Though the 2010 goal of doubling the tiger numbers of the world sounds difficult to achieve, the present results proves it is quite possible. Now, we hope that in the future, more countries with wild tigers will speed up their conservation efforts and the next "tiger census" of the world will yield an even greater reason to rejoice.

More in Environment