In 2010, when the global population of tigers in the wild dropped to a record low of 3,200, 13 countries joined hands and pledged to double their population by 2022. Six years later, these countries appear to be heading toward their ambitious goal.
According to the findings of a new survey released Monday by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Global Tiger Forum, the global count of tigers roaming in the wild has risen for the first time in over a century. The report, which comes just a day before a crucial tiger conservation meeting in the Indian capital city of New Delhi, now pegs the number of wild tigers at 3,890 — a rise driven primarily by enhanced protection and conservation measures implemented by governments in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, and improvements in survey methodologies.
This marks the first rise in tiger population since 1900, when over 100,000 tigers roamed in the wild. The animals, which once used to live in over 20 countries, are now limited to just 13 as poaching — fuelled mostly by the market for traditional Chinese medicines — and habitat loss continue to take a toll.
“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 governments, local communities and conservationists work together,” WWF Director General Marco Lambertini said in a statement.
In India — a country that accounts for over half of the world’s tigers — wild tiger population rose by 520, to 2,226 in 2016 from 1,706 in 2010. In recent years, Indian authorities have stepped up their anti-poaching efforts, and ramped up security in and around the country's tiger reserves.
The tally also has surged in Nepal, to 198 from 123; in Russia, to 443 from 360; and Bhutan, where it rose to 103 from an earlier 75. However, in Bangladesh, the number dropped to 106 in 2016 from 440 in 2010.
“A strong action plan for the next six years is vital,” Michael Baltzer, leader of WWF Tx2 Tiger Initiative, which aims to double the population of wild tigers, said in the statement. “The global decline has been halted but there is still no safe place for tigers. Southeast Asia, in particular, is at imminent risk of losing its tigers if these governments do not take action immediately.”