The number of tigers in the wild has risen for the first time in 100 years, marking a major turning point in the big cat’s plight against poaching and habitat loss.
Figures collated from national surveys conducted in tiger range states and from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), estimate the number of tigers living in the wild to be around 3,890.
That is up almost 700 animals from the 2010 figure, which estimated their numbers at 3,200, ABC reported.
Current tiger estimates across Asia are: 2,226 tigers in India, 433 in Russian Siberia, 371 in Indonesia, 250 in Malaysia, 198 in Nepal, 189 in Thailand, 106 in Bangladesh, 103 in Bhutan, more than seven in China, less than five in Vietnam, two tigers in Laos, and none in Cambodia. Data on tigers in Myanmar was not available.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia’s national manager for the species, Darren Grover welcomed the news, saying it was the first increase since the turn of the 20th century.
“That’s great news. It’s the first positive trend for wild tiger populations in more than 100 years,” he said.
In 1900, approximately 100,000 tigers were estimated to be living in the wild.
“In those 100 years or so, we’ve lost around 97 percent of wild tigers,” Grover said.
A WWF background document said the increase was likely the result of major changes made in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, including improved survey techniques and ramped up conservation efforts.
But despite the increase, Grover said there was still a long way to go before tiger range states reached their goal of doubling the number in the wild by 2022.
In 2011, about 14 countries from across the tiger range, which extends from India across South Asia and to Far East Russia, got together in St. Petersburg in Russia and agreed to the Tx2 target.
“They took 3,200 as the number at that time, so that would mean they are aiming for a wild tiger population of around 6,400 by 2022,” Grover said.
“We’re on the way towards that target. We’re obviously making progress, but there is still quite some way to go.”
Grover said some countries, such as Malaysia, China and Thailand, were holding back efforts by failing to conduct habitat surveys.
“There is some information available on how many tigers remain in those countries, but until we do those accurate surveys, we won’t know for sure,” he said.
“The good thing is, most of those countries have committed to doing those surveys over the next year or so, so that will enlighten us to a more accurate figure and hopefully show that that overall number is increasing further.”
He said in the meantime, tourists needed to be aware of the overseas practices threatening tigers in the wild.
“While loss of habitat has been a major reason for the decline in tiger numbers, the illegal poaching of tiger and the use of products in traditional medicines is also a major factor behind the decline in tiger populations,” he said.
“We really urge people who are going to these countries, if you’re in markets and you are seeing what are claimed to be tiger products, don’t purchase them.”
“As we like to say, there’s only one place where those tiger products should be, and that’s in a tiger.”