The world’s tiger population is up for the first time in 100 years, and conservationists believe those numbers could double by 2022. In 2010, there were only 3,200 tigers remaining in the world. According to the latest estimates, the number has significantly increased to over 3,900 tigers worldwide.
Newsweek reports that Ginette Hemley, the senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, made the announcement at the third Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conversation in New Delhi. The meeting included 13 countries that still have tigers living within their borders.
Over the last 100 years, the number of tigers globally fell dramatically, as they are hunted for their skin, trafficked to other countries, including the United States, and used in traditional medicine.
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Hemley said the tiger population has increased in Nepal, Russia, India, and Bhutan. She attributes the promising increase to the 13 nations who pledged in 2010 to double the wild tiger population by 2022.
“We have a long way to go, but we are hopeful we have a chance to reach our goal,” she said.
She also admitted there is still work to be done in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia, where there has been little commitment towards protecting the endangered animals.
The increased tiger population is directly related to strong political commitments from the other countries, specifically those located in central and south Asia. Although conversation experts say tigers are likely extinct in Cambodia, they believe it is the perfect time for the government to launch an initiative to introduce tigers back into the country.
Global Wildlife’s director of species conversation, Dr. Barney Long, said the increase in the tiger population, following a 100-year decline, is a promising sign.
He said, “We’ve got a good, positive start.”
Before 2010, the tiger population was in a dramatic decline. In 1900, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers roaming the wilds of Asia, a number that declined by 97 percent by 2010.
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“The reversal of the decline needs to be heartily congratulated, but we can’t be complacent,” he said.
Long went on to explain that poaching is not likely to end in the near future and will continue to exist as long as there are demands for tiger products.
“It will require a continued effort to fight back against it, and much work remains to be done if the animal population is to continue to increase globally.”
Hemley says if tigers are left undisturbed in their natural habitat, their numbers multiply rather quickly, using Nepal as an example, where tiger numbers increased by 63 percent compared to a survey taken five years before.
In 2013, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation awarded the World Wildlife Fund a $3 million grant for the conversation of tigers in Nepal.
The grant was gifted by the popular actor’s foundation to protect nature’s most iconic animals and help the WWF effectively partner with local communities, who could help preserve the tigers in their habitats and offer tourism and economic opportunities as well. DiCaprio said it is crucial that steps be taken to preserve the world’s remaining tigers. He said he hopes the monetary support will ensure the tiger population will continue to increase worldwide.
India currently has the most tigers in the world, with an approximated population of 2,226. Russia follows with 433, Indonesia with 371, Malaysia with 250, Nepal with 198, Thailand with 189, Bangladesh with 106, and Bhutan with 103.
There are over 5,000 tigers in the U.S., which far outweighs the tiger population in the Asian wild. However, a majority of the animals live in private breeding facilities, zoos, or are owned by private individuals. Conservationists are concerned that loopholes in the U.S. legislature encourage the easy trafficking of tigers into America.
Scientific America reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife organization recently introduced a new law pertaining to the endangered tiger, which would prohibit the import of tigers into the country outside the specifications set forth in the Captive-bred Wildlife Registration.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe said the new regulation, which will go into effect in May, will be positive for tiger conservation, as it is expected to reduce trafficking and therefore increase the world’s tiger population.
[Image via Anan Kaewkhammul/Shutterstock]