After years of tiger numbers declining, the tiger conservation community has finally received some good news. The tiger population has recently increased for the first time in over 100 years. Today, 3,890 tigers roam freely which is due in large to the conservation efforts taking place throughout India, Russia, and Nepal. Local wildlife officials conduct surveys and genetic sampling as well as including estimates from independent scientists from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to determine population sizes. Where can these tigers be found? Below, this article takes a look at tiger populations around the globe and which countries have the highest numbers.
Countries with the Highest Number of Wild Tigers
India is home to 2,226 wild tigers which is ⅔ of the world population! The government has created the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which oversees 49 reserves throughout India. They have increased anti-poaching efforts and compensate locals who experience tiger-induced livestock loss to prevent more killing. The population has increased by 520 in just five years due to these efforts.
Russia is next on the list of high tiger populations with 433. This country has also seen dramatic increases in recent years after agreeing, with several other countries, to work toward doubling tiger numbers by 2020. Russia is quite close to achieving that goal. In 2010, they only had 360 tigers.
After Russia, Indonesia is next with a tiger population of 371. This number comes from the previously mentioned International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates. The Government in Indonesia was unable to conduct formal surveys. Since the country has a significant portion of the world’s tigers, it is important to concentrate conservation efforts to save tigers in the Indonesian forests. Unfortunately, uncontrolled development has been destroying the local tiger habitat.
Malaysia has 250 tigers within its borders. Like Indonesia, the local government did not calculate this number, and the estimate came from independent scientists. Malaysia struggles with decreasing illegal poaching activities.
Number 5 on the list is Nepal where 198 wild tigers call home. Nepal has also attacked its problem of decreasing tiger population with the same enthusiasm as India. The result is that this number represents a 60% increase over the last five years.
With 189 tigers, Thailand makes the list in 6th place. This number represents an increase after years of poaching and habitat loss. In fact, Thailand is home to the only wildlife reserve in Southeast Asia where numbers are growing - Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
In Bangladesh, recent surveys reported 106 wild tigers. However, this number has decreased from the 440 figure presented a few years back. Scientists hope this is because the new government is actually reporting correct numbers rather than inflated estimates it shows their commitment to tiger conservation.
Other countries with the world’s remaining tigers include Bhutan (103), China (7), Vietnam (5), and Laos (2).
The Importance of Tiger Conservation
Tigers belong at the top of the food-chain. As a top predator, tigers are critical to proper ecosystem functioning. When ecosystems lack large predator populations, the population of herbivore animals grows at alarmingly fast rates. This fact, in turn, means that they must consume more and more plants which cause irreparable damage and leaves the ecosystem out of balance. The absence or decrease of tigers identifies an unhealthy ecosystem. Hopefully, the countries on this list continue their efforts (or improve their efforts) to conserve the tiger species. If this happens, the tiger population is expected to continue growing.