Notice: A few days after the article that this post is based on was released, contradictory reports emerged. Many scientists feel that the global tiger population has not increased, but that we have simply gotten better at counting them. Click here for a summary of some of those claims.
This article from National Geographic’s Brian Clark Howard provides the perfect counter to last week’s dismal news. For the first time in 100 years, global tiger (Panthera tigris) numbers are on the rise.
This success is the result of intense conservation efforts that have focused on curtailing poaching, connecting tiger habitats, compensating local people for tiger-related damages, and eco-tourism. India has especially capitalized on the latter opportunity, which is part of the reason its tiger population has grown to 2,226 individuals (up from 1,706 five years ago). This is important, because India’s tigers still possess more than 60% of the species’ genetic diversity. This makes them incredibly valuable for Panthera tigris’ long-term recovery (Mondol, Karanth, and Ramakrishnan, 2009). Tiger populations have also increased in Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan. This brings the worldwide total to 3,890 wild tigers.
While this news is cause to celebrate, tigers are still in danger. The demand for tiger products in Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM) remains high, fueling continued poaching. According to Howard’s story, the tiger’s future will not be secured until this demand is brought under control.
All-in-all, the underlying tone of National Geographic’s recent article is one of cautious optimism. It shows why it is important to never give up on tigers. Not long ago their fate was considered sealed: there was a great deal of pessimism concerning their prospects. But thanks to groups like the National Geographic Society, Panthera, and individuals like you and I; the tide is starting to turn.