Tiger Numbers On The Rise
The IUCN has announced that the global wild tiger population has stabilised and potentially increased.
The latest data suggests that there has been a 40% rise in tiger numbers from 3,200 in 2015 to 4,500 in 2022. This is welcome news in the Year of the Tiger as it is the first upturn in the number of tigers for decades.
Work to be done
Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation led the research. While they are delighted with the news, they are also aware that there is still a lot more work to be done in protecting tigers before it can safely be said they have been saved from extinction.
There have been population increases recorded in India, Nepal and Thailand. What is being done in these regions can serve as the recipe for other tiger dwelling regions. If things continue to progress over the coming decade as they have done over the past ten years then we can hope that tigers will be re-classified by the IUCN to vulnerable rather than threatened.
The latest numbers estimate that between 3,726-5,578 wild tigers remain in Asia. That makes an average of 4,500 tigers with 3,140 suggested to be adult tigers. South Asia’s tigers represent 76% of the global population and are gaining numbers, particularly in India and Nepal. North Asia’s numbers are stable in areas such as Russia and China. However, Southeast Asia’s tigers are still in the decline in areas such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Improvement in counting method
There is a degree of caution around the latest figures. The latest data might suggest that more tigers exist in the wild but that is partly down to improvements in counting methods. Tigers are elusive, so counting their numbers can be tricky and cause inconsistencies. In the past, IUCN assessments have included conservative population estimates and likely underestimates, which virtually guarantees an increase this time around if numbers are recorded more accurately.
That said, the latest data is the most reliable to date. It can therefore serve as the baseline against which future counts can be measured.
Target not quite reached
In 2010, at the first Global Tiger Summit the world committed to the goal of increasing wild tiger numbers to 6,000 by 2022. Given the latest count estimates there are around 4,500 we have fallen short of that target. The Global Tiger Summit happening this year will set fresh targets for the coming 12 years and lay the groundwork for an updated recovery plan based on what has worked well over the past decade.
Things are not guaranteed for tiger recovery, but at least the latest numbers are encouraging and hopefully heading in the right direction. There is however a long way to go to get tigers off IUCN’s threatened ‘red’ list.
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