Wild tiger populations are on the rise for the first time in 100 years, according to a new report released by the World Wildlife Fund. The number of tigers living in the wild has increased over previous estimates, tracing a silver lining around the future of the species. The big cats are still endangered, but continued efforts to support reproduction and reduce threats against wild tiger populations could see populations continue to grow in years to come.
WWF estimates there are currently 3,890 tigers living in the wild, primarily in India, Thailand, and Japan. This is a dramatic uptick from the all-time low of 3,200 – the population estimate in 2010. At that time, governments of the countries with tiger populations (with some help from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) formed the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) and agreed to establish a goal of doubling the global wild tiger population by 2022, and an array of conservation efforts followed. So far, the plan is working beautifully, and WWF praises the countries where populations have sharply increased. Elsewhere, like in Southeast Asia, WWF says poaching and rampant deforestation continue to threaten wild tigers. Tigers have actually been declared “functionally extinct” in Cambodia, where no wild tigers have been spotted since 2007.
This news about the rise in global wild tiger populations comes a little more than a year after India announced that its tiger numbers had jumped 30 percent between 2011 and 2015. Conservation efforts there include protected habitats and wildlife reserves, as well as breeding programs and increased penalties for poaching. Some 70 percent of the tigers on Earth roam within India’s borders, and government officials there have offered to send healthy tiger cubs to other nations with struggling populations in an effort to help rehabilitate the species.
Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF, says the increase in tiger population is just the beginning, and conservation efforts will continue. “Together with governments, local communities, philanthropists, and other NGOs, we’ve begun to reverse the trend in the century-long decline of tigers,” she said. “But much more work and investment is needed if we are to reach our goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022.”
Images via WWF