Great News For Conservationists As Tiger Numbers Increase
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For wildlife enthusiasts, the issue of conservation is a hot topic; for those with a particular interest in the Tiger, it is even more sensitive, with the animal's population in the wild reaching critically endangered status. With conservation efforts and eco-tourism like Tiger watching tours bringing much-needed attention to the animals' plight, it appears the tide may be finally turning in this magnificent big cat's favour.

Turning the Tide

For the past century, the number of Panthera tigris living in the wild has been decreasing at an alarming rate, due to external influences including poaching and loss of habitat. Since 1900, it's estimated that some 97% of the population has been lost from the original 100,000.

Over the past decades, concerted conservation efforts enacted by several organisations have seen a slowing of this decimation, although numbers have continued to fall. However, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) has recently announced that figures collated from surveys in Nepal, Bhutan, India and Russia have shown the first increase in the wild population for over a century.

A Population on the Rise – At Last

In 2010, data collected by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) estimated the worldwide population of the big cat to be 3,200. In 2015, in the first positive trend in over 100 years, the number has been estimated at 3,890.

The WWF has attributed the increase to major changes in cultural attitudes, more comprehensive survey techniques and focused conservation programmes in Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal.

In particular, the WWF praised improved management of the situation by Nepal, with a strong commitment implemented by both its government and people, leading to the outlawing of poaching.

A Work in Progress

While the news heralds a major turning point, experts advise caution in the optimism, stressing that some of the increase could be due to improved methods of gathering data. There's still, they say, a long way to go if the WWF's goal of doubling the population in the wild by 2022 is to be achieved.

The figure was mooted in the 2011 summit held in Russia, which came up with the "Tx2" target, agreed to by 13 countries within the big cat's range. With the original 3,200 figure used as a starting point, the 2022 goal is 6,400.

All for One

The WWF warned that, although things are certainly looking positive in terms of reaching the target, a number of countries had risked impeding the efforts by failing to carry out vital surveys of habitat. Without accurate data from Thailand, China and Malaysia, researchers have been, up to now, unable to determine a true holistic picture of the population. However, commitments by those countries to carry out surveys in the coming years have now been made.

How the World Can Help

Aside from habitat loss, a major factor in the alarming decline of numbers of the big cat is due to poaching and the popularity of Tiger products in traditional Chinese medicine and pharmaceuticals. By raising awareness of the animal's plight through education and celebrity endorsement, the WWF is working on eradicating the practice and they encourage the public to eschew any such products.

A Life Changing Encounter

Ethical Tiger watching tours are also an excellent way of raising the big cat's profile. Led by experienced naturalists in the jungles of India, dedicated Tiger watching tours offer an insight into this spectacular animal's characteristics, behaviour and habitat, in a privileged way previously only afforded to scientists and researchers.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Tiger watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.


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Very interesting article. I'd wish more people would read it.

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  about 4 years ago
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