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Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decline

Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:01 pm
by valkea
Hey, look, some good environmental news: After decades of decline, wild tiger populations are slowly starting to rebound. Efforts to crack down on poaching and protect wildlife reserves in places like India, Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan seem to be paying off — though there's still a long, long way to go.

Tigers are notoriously hard to count, as they often hide out in dense jungles and snowy mountains. Biologists usually have set up camera traps to track them. But based on the best available data from national surveys, the WWF and the Global Tiger Forum estimate there are now 3,890 tigers in the wild, up from roughly 3,200 in 2010. (A more comprehensive survey is expected later this year.)

That's still far, far below their historic peak. A century ago, more than 100,000 tigers roamed the globe, ranging from Turkey and the Caucasus to eastern Siberia and Indonesia. But decades of logging, development, and poaching have whittled the tigers' habitat down to just 13 countries.

Tigers are a charismatic megafauna, so the prospect of extinction has garnered a lot of attention. And, in recent years, countries have been stepping up their conservation efforts to preserve what few wild tigers remain.

India is a great case study. A century ago, some 45,000 tigers wandered the country. By 2006, there were only 1,411 remaining, confined to just a few dozen wildlife reserves and encroached on all sides by development. The tigers often wandered out of the reserves for food, coming into deadly conflict with humans (deadly for both humans and the tigers). And poachers killed dozens of animals each year, spurred on by soaring demand for body parts in places like China, for use in traditional medicine.

So, over the last decade, India's government has bolstered protections, training more forest guards and setting up camera traps to improve monitoring of the tigers. By 2014, the wild population had risen to 2,216. Nepal has seen similar successes, with its population rising 60 percent since 2008.

That said, it's not all good news. The Indochinese tiger was recently declared "functionally extinct" in Cambodia due to uncontrolled poaching. The government has said it will try to reintroduce the species in the eastern Mondulkiri protected forest, under heavy guard, to see if it can thrive there.

And, ultimately, 3,890 tigers worldwide is still pretty paltry. To put that in perspective, there are about 5,000 tigers in private captivity in the United States alone. What's more, because many of the wild sub-populations are isolated from each other, conservationists are worried about a lack of gene flow. (In India, conservationists have called for corridors that would link many of the existing tiger reserves, to facilitate breeding.)

The 13 governments that are home to tiger habitats have set a goal of doubling the wild tiger population by 2020. They're meeting at the Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in New Delhi this week. It's an audacious and difficult goal, but the early returns are at least encouraging.
Whether this is a result of the tiger population actually increasing or just improvement in how that data is gathered, here's some (mostly) good news about tigers for once! All the time we hear about how they're dying and in so much trouble, it's really nice to hear that one way or another there are more known wild tigers in existence than there was previously.

Re: Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decli

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 11:55 am
by twinlinskis
ah, this makes me so happy! the tiger is one of my top favorite animals, so hearing that efforts to bolster their population count have proven to be successful makes me hopeful for the future for my fav striped cats. i still don't understand why we would hunt such animals (then again, why would we hunt any form of animal without the intention of eating it or controlling population? just to say that we killed one??? the reasoning behind it is literally so stupid), but i'm glad that governments are taking initiative and being really active in trying to protect the tigers against poachers. :')

i'm pretty butthurt over the fact that the indochinese tiger was declared extinct though. it's a shame that people would literally hunt an animal down to extinction just for fur trade or "traditional medicine." like get out of here with that we have plenty of other medicinal alternatives in order to treat certain ailments; you don't need to kill a creature that's already endangered in order to cure yourself of a back ache. #SaltyMary

Re: Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decli

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 5:02 pm
by valkea
Tigers have been one of my favorite animals since I was a kid, so hearing that they're actually recovering a bit and that efforts to protect them seem to be working made me really happy. Obviously they're not safe yet, but this is still progress.

I don't get why people would hunt an animal for "traditional medicine" of all things to the point where it goes extinct, or is a large contributor to why it goes extinct. Usually I'd just leave tradition alone, but... an animal is now considered extinct partly because of it. Regardless of if that medicine is abandoned in favor of other alternatives or if it can no longer be made because an animal just isn't there, it's not going to be used anymore, so why not just... leave the already endangered animal alone? Same with fur trade, honestly. Since the Indochinese tiger is now extinct in Cambodia (I would assume there are populations elsewhere, otherwise why say "extinct in Cambodia" instead of just "extinct"?), they can't be hunted for fur anymore because there just... aren't any left there to hunt. Amazing how no one seems to actually think about the consequences of their actions in the long run. At least there will be an attempt at reintroducing them, but hunting as a large contributor to an animal's extinction is still ridiculous imo.

Re: Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decli

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 5:21 pm
by twinlinskis
Katserin Kynsi wrote:
Amazing how no one seems to actually think about the consequences of their actions in the long run.
i took a deep breath and nodded my head when i read this. all people think about when it comes to business is their own personal gain, and only what's in the now. it doesn't matter what happens to a particular species because right now they could be making money off of a tiger paw or the tail or whatever else obscure body part people use for their "medicines." and then there's the concept that, "oh, well if i just hunt this one tiger today then it won't be that big of a deal. i mean, it's just one tiger so who am i hurting??" this sort of thinking just builds and builds until there's literally nothing left in the wake of their greed and arrogance. this type of attitude is exactly what's made so many animals go extinct due to human negligence and incompetence.

i understand traditional practices are important for cultures who are growing more modern and are straying away from their roots in order to keep up with the competition/to maintain relevance in the global economy, but there has to be a limit to what you should and shouldn't pursue when it comes to tradition. if it means that you are literally destroying an animal's population because of your medicines or rituals or anything of the like, then there should be a substitute for that ingredient, or that particular practice should be... you know... put to rest.

i hope reintroducing the tigers will go well. there's going to have to be heavy surveillance on the released tigers, and i'm just worried that once they're placed back in cambodia, the poachers will just slink in and destroy the reintroduction program. >:T

Re: Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decli

Posted: Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:52 am
by wolf567
With regards to the indochinese tiger they can also be found in Lao, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. According to IUCN Red List in 2011 Cambodia had between 11 and 50 indochinese tigers - but it was believed that there was no breeding individuals as per the same with individuals in Viet Nam. It is very sad and hopefully there may be potential reintroductions in the future. In all it doesn't look good for the indochinese tiger in all as the other wild populations are very small.

It is great to hear that overall tiger populations are increasing, although the threat levels remain very high. Especially with it believed that the South China tiger is potentially extinct in the wild as no one has seen one in the wild for around 10-15 years! Hopefully, we can potentially save the other species if things do change. It is a very difficult situation with the beliefs of culture but also the poachers in some countries are only doing it as it is a source of income. It is so important that conservation organisations support local communities as that is the key to having success. Hopefully with more high-profile people getting on board more awareness will be raised and things may change?

One charity that has a reserve in Cambodia and I believe is looking at reintroduction is Wildlife Alliance (

Re: Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decli

Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 8:05 am
by Kivia
This is definitely good to hear- at least there is progress but there is still much more work to be done. Also, I just found a statement from tiger biologists that I believe is worth mentioning about how the population rise claim is misleading. In the article that this thread is centered around, it mentions how the conservation group Panthera believes that this may just be improved monitoring, which was written by John Goodrich. He is one of the biologists who is cited with the statement below.
On Sunday, April 10th, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Global Tiger Forum (GTF) issued a report stating that the world’s wild tiger population was on the rise, and on track for a doubling in a decade. We do not find this report and its implications scientifically convincing.

1. Having devoted years of our lives to trying to understand and save wild tigers, we believe their conservation should be guided by the best possible science. Using flawed survey methodologies can lead to incorrect conclusions, an illusion of success, and slackening of conservation efforts, when in reality grave concern is called for. Glossing over serious methodological flaws, or weak and incomplete data to generate feel-good ‘news’ is a disservice to conservation, because tigers now occupy only 7% of their historic range. A recent World Conservation Union (IUCN) assessment showed 40% habitat loss in the last decade, and a spike in poaching pressure in many regions. Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR and China have virtually lost viable tiger populations in recent years. This is not a time for conservationists to take their eyes off the ball and pat each other on the back.

2. There is no doubt that wildlife managers in parts of India and even in specific reserves in South East Asia and Russia have made commendable conservation efforts, leading to recoveries in specific tiger populations. India has invested massively in recovering several tiger populations over the last four decades. This has been possible because of strong political, administrative and public support rarely matched anywhere else.

3. Such sporadic tiger recoveries should be monitored using statistically robust camera trap or DNA surveys. Rigorous scientific studies in India, Thailand and Russia demonstrate this can indeed be done. But these studies also indicate that tiger recovery rates are slow and not likely to attain levels necessary for the doubling of wild tiger numbers within a decade.

4. Estimates of tiger numbers for large landscapes, regions and countries currently in vogue in the global media for a number of countries are largely derived from weak methodologies. They are sometimes based on extrapolations from tiger spoor (tracks and droppings) surveys, or spoor surveys alone. While spoor surveys can be useful for knowing where tigers occur, they are not useful for reliably counting their numbers. Translating spoor counts to tiger numbers poses several statistical problems that remain unresolved, which can lead to fundamentally flawed claims of changes in tiger numbers.

5. Source populations of tigers that occur at high densities and which are likely to produce ‘surplus’ animals that can disperse and expand populations now occupy less than 10% of the remaining 1.2 million square kilometres of tiger habitat. Almost 70% of wild tigers survive within these source sites. They are recovering slowly, only in some reserves where protection has improved. Outside these source sites lie vast ‘sink landscapes’, which are continuing to lose tigers and habitat due to hunting as well as rural and developmental pressures.

6. With the above considerations in view, even taking these putative tiger numbers at face value, simple calculations show that doubling of the world’s tigers in ten years as hoped for in the report is not a realistic proposition. Assuming 70-90% of wild tigers are in source populations with slow growth, such an anticipated doubling of global tiger numbers would demand an increase between 364-831% in these sink landscapes. We believe this to be an unlikely scenario.

7. Rather than engaging in these tiger number games that distract them from reality, conservationists must now focus on enhancing and expanding recovery and monitoring of source populations, while protecting their remaining habitat and their linkages, all the while being guided by the best of science.
Statement, citations, biologist names, etc. found here: ... tf-report/

I agree with where they are getting at. The best research methodologies are crucial to knowing just how well tiger populations are doing. This combined with continued conservation efforts should hopefully prove to bring more positive news in the future. Don't want to be a downer with the statement I posted, but it is important to think realistically to act appropriately.

Re: Wild tiger populations increase after a century of decli

Posted: Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:22 am
by LakotaTheOmega
Excellent news. Hopefully they can return to their former range again!