The number of tigers living in the wild has risen for the first time in over a century, according to a new global census. Experts have, however, cautioned that tigers still face threats from poachers and habitat loss.
A new census has found that some 3,890 wild tigers are roaming the forests from Russia to Thailand, wildlife conservation groups announced on Monday.
“More important than the absolute numbers is the trend, and we’re seeing the trend going in the right direction,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
‘Vital and beloved’
Although welcoming the news, conservation experts cautioned that the rise in the latest global tally could be attributed to better survey methods and a wider survey area.
Nevertheless, Monday’s announcement marks the first time that tiger counts have been reported to have increased since 1900, when more than 100,000 of the big cats were still in the wild.
Following 2010’s dismal count, 13 countries where tigers live teamed up with conservation groups and set a goal to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022.
“Tigers are some of the most vital and beloved animals on Earth,” Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio – who has joined the tiger conservation effort – said in a statement. “I am so proud that our collective efforts have begun to make progress toward our goal, but there is still so much to be done.”
India is home to more than half of the world’s tigers, with 2,226 of the big cats on the prowl from the eastern swamps in West Bengal to the southern Kerala state.
Not all countries saw progress in wild tiger populations. Although Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal marked increased numbers in their national surveys, Southeast Asian countries did not fare as well. Cambodia recently declared tigers functionally extinct in their country and announced plans to reintroduce them to the wild.
Tigers face constant threats from poaching, deforestation, and habitat loss as countries continue to develop.
“When you have high-level political commitments, it can make all the difference,” said WWF’s Hemley. “When you have well-protected habitats and you control the poaching, tigers will recover. That’s a pretty simple formula. We know it works.”
The announcement comes ahead of a three day conference in New Delhi where ministers from the 13 tiger-populated countries will meet to discuss measures to further protect the beloved big cats.