Population on the rise for the first time since 1900
he world’s count of wild tigers roaming forests from Russia to Vietnam has gone up for the first time in more than a century, with 3,890 counted by conservation groups and national governments in the latest global census, wildlife conservation groups have said.
The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum.
India alone holds more than half of the world’s tigers, with 2,226 tigers roaming reserves across the country, from the southern tip of Kerala state to the eastern swamps in West Bengal, according to its last count in 2014.
But, while the news is cause for celebration, experts stopped short of saying the number of tigers itself was actually rising..
Still, this is the first time tiger counts are increasing since 1900, when there were more than 100,000 tigers in the wild.
“More important than the absolute numbers is the trend, and we’re seeing the trend going in the right direction,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF.
The global census, compiled from national tiger surveys as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was released a day before ministers from 13 countries meet for three days in New Delhi.
The countries teamed up with conservation groups after the disappointing count in 2010, and pledged to double wild tiger numbers by 2022. Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio joined the effort.
“Tigers are some of the most vital and beloved animals on Earth,” DiCaprio said in a statement. “I am so proud that our collective efforts have begun to make progress toward our goal, but there is still so much to be done.”
Not all nations are seeing progress. While Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal all counted more tigers in their latest surveys, Southeast Asian countries have struggled. They are also behind the others in conservation.
“When you have high-level political commitments, it can make all the difference,” Hemley said. “When you have well protected habitat and you control the poaching, tigers will recover. That’s a pretty simple formula.”
Cambodia is looking at reintroducing tigers after recently declaring them functionally extinct within its borders, meaning there are no longer any breeding tigers in the wild.
Indonesia has also seen a rapid decline, thanks to having the world’s highest rate of forest destruction to meet growing demand for producing palm oil as well as pulp and paper.