As of last year there were an estimated 2,967 wild tigers in India, or nearly 80% of the world’s tiger population.
First the facts, stark as they are: the number of wild tigers has plummeted throughout their ranges in just a few human generations, from some 100,000 striped predators a century ago to only around 4,000 animals left in the wild today. There are several times more tigers in captivity today than there are in the wild.
Of the nine original subspecies of tiger, three have already gone extinct: the Balinese, the Javan and the Caspian. Several other subspecies are on their last legs in shrinking forests and unless deforestation and poaching are halted, they, too, could go extinct in coming years.
Now here’s some good news, as far as Bengal tigers are concerned. The number of India’s wild tigers has grown by a third since 2014 to nearly 3,000 animals, according to a new report by the country’s government, which has made tiger conservation a pillar of its environmental policies.
As of last year there were an estimated 2,967 wild tigers in India, which accounted for nearly 80% of the world’s wild tiger population. The growth in India’s tiger population has been thanks in large part to stepped-up conservation efforts. India’s Project Tiger, which was launched in 1973 at nine tiger reserves, has since grown to cover as many as 50 tiger reserves. These reserves now comprise 72,749sqkm in total and cover more than 2.2% of India’s geographical area.
“Under the ambit of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), India has successfully implemented several novel conservation initiatives like voluntary incentivized village relocations, connecting tiger source populations through habitat corridors, amongst others, have borne fruit as evidenced by tiger recovery in the past 16 years,” the report notes.
This does not mean that all is well, however, as most of the country’s tigers continue to face a precarious existence. Habitat loss remains an issue as human settlements continue to encroach on traditional tiger habitats. Conflicts between humans and tigers have intensified in some areas where tigers tend to stray out of protected forests.
Just a few days ago an angry crowd of villagers bludgeoned a female tiger to death with wooden poles after the animal had reportedly attacked some locals outside a tiger reserve in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Nor was this an isolated incident. Last year some 30 were killed by villagers in the country.
Still, India’s success in boosting its population of tigers can serve to inspire the other 12 countries with tiger rangers, from Nepal to Malaysia to Russia, to try and follow suit.