Tiger numbers rise for the first time in conservation history
Wild tiger populations in five countries are rising thanks to a combination of initiatives that include focusing on protecting the landscapes where tigers thrive, restoring wildlife corridors and ensuring the communities that live among tigers are supported and included in the conservation process.
The increase has been recorded in Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia, five of 13 countries that came together in 2010 – when the tiger population had dipped to 3,200. The aim is to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.
In India, from 2006 to 2018 tiger populations rose from 2,600 to 3,350 individuals, approximately three-quarters of the world’s tiger population. In Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park, tiger population from 2010 to 2019 have increased from 10 to 22.
While this is definite progress, this is only just the beginning of a long but achievable goal. Wild tiger numbers have dropped by more than 95% since the beginning of the 20th century. The species is still on the brink of extinction in many countries of south east Asia where their main threats are habitat loss resulting from mining, logging, farming, palm oil plantations, settlements, roads and railways.
In addition, tigers are still exploited in tiger farms due to the demand for their skins as luxury rugs and home décor, and for their bones which are used to make traditional Asian medicines and health tonics. They are also exploited and abused in captivity – in circuses, zoos, tiger farms and in people’s private collections of wild animals as pets.
Alongside global conservation efforts to provide a unified, focused and co-ordinated programme for tiger conservation initiatives, there also are ways for everyone to play a role in tiger conservation.
As part WWF’s Eyes and Ears initiative the public can report anything they have seen or heard that may be linked to illegal wildlife trade. The conservation group is pushing for stricter sentencing for wildlife trade offences in England and Wales. Sentencing has often been inconsistent and one of the reasons could be that judges and sentences might not be informed about the seriousness of wildlife trade offences.
Moreover, consumers have the power to ensure they are buying responsibly-harvested forest products. There are few certification schemes out there, but the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the only credible forest certification system that ensures environmentally and socially responsible management of forests.
Circuses with wild animals, tiger farms and indeed any attraction that is obviously exploiting tigers should also be boycotted.