Only four days ago, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Global Tiger Forum (GTF) broke the story that world tiger numbers had increased for the first time in over a century. Like many individuals, I was excited by this news. I even shared some of it on this blog. But now scientists with the NGO Panthera are contesting those claims.
On April 12, Panthera issued a press release urging readers to interpret the WWF’s and GTF’s statements with caution. Dr. John Goodrich, Panthera’s Senior Tiger Program Director, said the increased tiger numbers are the result of more precise data and greater monitoring efforts: not actual population growth. He went on to say that more rigorous, scientific examinations are necessary before it is safe to conclude that tiger numbers are indeed rising. In a recent blog post he wrote, “Recent claims that global numbers of wild tigers are increasing are misleading….there is no scientific evidence of a population increase—we’re just doing a better job of counting them” (Goodrich, 2016).
This is not the first time scientists have countered reports of tiger population growth. Last year, the Indian government reported a large jump in its tiger numbers. But scientists disagreed with those claims, again citing more comprehensive monitoring efforts as the reason for the supposed gains.
So while I would love to say that global tiger numbers are indeed rising, the best thing to do is wait for more information; and keep up conservation efforts. It is too early to say for sure if tiger populations are increasing, so we must not lessen our resolve.