Conservationists hail ‘remarkable comeback’ of tigers in five countries

Tiger numbers are increasing across five of the countries where the endangered big cat is found, conservationists have said.

The number of wild tigers is on the increase in Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia, a decade on from the launch of an ambitious scheme to double the population of the species.

The TX2 initiative was launched in 2010 when it was estimated that wild populations of the cat were at a historic low with as few as 3,200 animals remaining across the 13 "range" countries where they are found.

It aims to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.

Conservationists are marking this year's Global Tiger Day by highlighting some of the successes that have been seen in range countries following efforts to protect tigers and their habitat.

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'THE END', by British artist Heather Phillipson, sits on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, England, on July 30, 2020. The installation, unveiled today, has seen its debut delayed from March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Its depiction of a cherry-topped swirl of cream, plus a drone and fly, is described by its accompanying explanatory note as a 'monument to hubris and impending collapse'. The piece is the 13th commission to occupy the plinth and will remain in place until 2022. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Musicians of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective rehearse at Wigmore Hall in London ahead of a concert this Saturday August 1st, when indoor concerts and theatre performances with socially distanced audiences become possible in the UK.
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A member of staff poses for photographs as the new commission by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei entitled "History of Bombs" which covers the floor and a staircase is showcased, in the Atrium at the Imperial War Museum in London, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The museum reopens to visitors on Saturday, Aug. 1 as the British government continue to relax their coronavirus restrictions, and will feature the new site-specific artwork that covers over 1,000 square feet and forms part of their Refugees season. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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NHS staff protest outside Downing Street after marching from St Thomas's Hospital at the 'March For Pay Justice for NHS and Key Workers' on 29 July, 2020 in London, England. Protesters demonstrate against not being included in the government's pay deal for public sector workers amid the sacrifices and hardship experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Lucy North MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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In India, the number of wild tigers has more than doubled from 2006 to 2018 and is estimated at between 2,600 and 3,350 animals – around three-quarters of the world's population.

Nepal's population of tigers had nearly doubled by 2018, up from 121 individuals in 2009 to 235 just under a decade later.

The population in Nepal's Bardia National Park alone has increased from just 18 tigers in 2008 to 87 in 2018, wildlife charity WWF said.

In Russia, Amur tiger numbers have increased by 15% in the past 10 years to around 540 animals, and in Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park the population rose from only 10 tigers a decade ago to 22 in 2019.

In 2010 China had no more than 20 wild tigers, most of which had crossed the border from Russia.

But the country recorded a landmark moment in 2014 when camera traps captured footage of a tigress and her cubs in Jilin Wangqing Nature Reserve, indicating that tigers were breeding in China again and dispersing into new areas.

A camera trap image of Rewa tiger family in Jigme Single Wangchuck National Park, Bhutan
A camera trap image of Rewa tiger family in Jigme Single Wangchuck National Park, Bhutan (JSWNP / DoFPS/ WWF-Bhutan/PA)

Becci May, regional manager, Asian Big Cats, at WWF UK, said: "Ten years ago, tigers were in such a perilous state that there was a very real risk of them becoming extinct in the wild.

"From that population low in 2010, they are finally making a remarkable comeback in much of South Asia, Russia and China, thanks to co-ordinated and concerted conservation efforts in these countries.

"This is an achievement that not only offers a future for tigers in the wild, but for the landscapes they inhabit and the communities living alongside this iconic big cat."

There are still only around 3,900 tigers in the wild, where they are under threat from poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, and the destruction and breaking up of their habitat across much of their range, WWF said.

The key to helping wild tiger populations recover is to focus on conserving landscapes where they can thrive and ensuring communities in these wildlife-rich areas are supported and included in conservation, the organisation said.

An endangered tiger in western Thailand caught on camera (DNP/PANTHERA/ZSL/RCU/PA)
An endangered tiger in western Thailand caught on camera (DNP/PANTHERA/ZSL/RCU/PA)

Also to mark Global Tiger Day, Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), Panthera and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have released footage and photos showing numerous new tigers in a region of western Thailand.

The images come from camera traps set as part of a monitoring programme adjacent to the largest remaining and only second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers in the world.

The sign of tigers in new areas suggests suitable habitat and prey exists for them there, the experts said.

Chief of the Wildlife Research Division for DNP Dr Saksit Simcharoen said: "These sightings are extremely encouraging for the future of tigers in our country and beyond.

"These tigers are in a precarious situation. Sustained and stronger protection of this area from poaching activity of any kind is the key to ensuring these individuals live on, helping Thailand's tigers to rebound."

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