Here’s some excellent news from conservationists: after decades of decline, wild tiger populations are beginning to rebound. That’s the consensus that will be unveiled this week at the Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, held in New Dehli.
Among the findings that have been released is the total population for wild tigers has risen from 3,200 in 2012 to an estimated 3,890 now. The increase is attributed to recent conservation efforts, particularly in Russia and India, which have seen greater population growth in recent years.
According to Scientific American, this is the first increase in population in a century.
[Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)] credits the rising populations to intense efforts put forth by governments following the Global Tiger Summit in 2010, in which the 13 tiger range countries pledged to double the number of wild tigers by the year 2022. “The countries where we’re seeing high-level commitment—Russia, India, Nepal and Bhutan—are the ones where we’ve seen the biggest progress,” she says.
In 2010, the region announced plans to double their tiger populations by 2022, although there are doubts that this is an achievable goal.
To be sure, tiger populations are still critically endangered, and face continued threats from deforestation, habitat loss and poachers. Several countries also reported extremely low numbers, while Cambodia announced last week that they were declaring the animal extinct in their borders.
At the low end of the spectrum, the new report estimates only seven wild tigers in China, five in Vietnam, two in Laos, and none in Cambodia.
[Luke Dollar, who manages the Big Cats Initiative for the National Geographic Society] says that in these countries “tigers are essentially done,” adding that “we still can’t afford to write them off.”
Still, while there are challenges for the animals, it does appear that conservation efforts are beginning to pay off.