Back in the last year of the tiger, the tiger range countries came together and aimed to double the number of tigers in the 12 years until the next year of the Tiger – which is this year. As a result, a great deal of surveys have been done to try to work out how the different countries fared.
A number have done very well, India for instance has slightly more than doubled its tiger population – though given they started at about 1.5% of historical numbers, this is just a first step. Never-the-less, as India houses roughly 2 in every 3 wild tigers at the current time, a doubling of their numbers is very positive.
Nepal is different. In the last 12 years Nepal has tripled the tiger population of the country, with 355 tigers, up from 121. What is even more exciting, is that Nepal is approaching the estimated 400 that the Chitwan- Parsa complex can hold.
The Amur tiger of the Russian far east, has increased but not by the target (they have had at best a 50% increase). The Amur tiger once had an enormous range that covered much of Russia, and into eastern Turkey – until recently, the Western section of the Amur range was incorrectly called the Caspian tiger – but was not distinct enough to warrant separate subspecies status.
The estimate for the number of tigers in Sumatra has not increased, though to be fair it has not decreased either.
Cambodia and Kazakhstan have both pledged to help bring back the tiger, having lost them in the past. While obviously not part of the initial tiger range countries who agreed to aim to double numbers, this is still a good idea. Cambodia will expand the range of the Indo-Chinese tiger, and given this population currently only sits at about 250 individuals an expansion of its range could quickly make its population more viable.
So how was the success overall? in 2010 there were about 3200 tigers in the wild, now there are 6000 so falling roughly 6% short of the doubling target. What must be recognized, is that while humanity has finally stopped the seemingly inexorable fall in tiger numbers, there is a long way to go before many of these subspecies can be considered safe.
The Tiger in Kazakhstan disappeared about 70 years ago, so why does this news excite me so much? Because, reintroducing tigers into this part of central Asia will start to replace the western Amur tiger population that until recently was referred to as the Caspian tiger.
Nepal should be commended for their work, but we now need to put programmes in place to make sure that the tigers of Nepal are a net good for the people of Nepal, otherwise these gains are likely to be temporary.