Tiger population in India has significantly increased in the wild, thanks to protection of additional habitat of the big cat and stringent anti-poaching patrols, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

In south-western India, where WCS research and conservation efforts began 25 years ago, a major rebound of tigers in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka has taken place.

In Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, tigers have actually reached saturation levels, with surplus young tigers spilling out into forest-reserves and dispersing using secured forest corridors through a landscape that holds over a million human beings.

In newer tiger reserves including Bhadra and Kudremukh, numbers have increased by as much as 50 per cent after years of neglect and chronic poaching were tackled, WCS said.

The successes are much-needed good news as tiger numbers worldwide continue to hover at all-time lows due to the combined threat of poaching, loss of prey, and habitat destruction. WCS estimates that only 3,200 tigers exist in the wild.

“Tigers are clearly fighting for their very existence, but it’s important to know that there is hope. Victories like these give us the resolve to continue to battle for these magnificent big cats,” WCS President and CEO Cristian Samper said.

“While the news about tigers has been bleak, these recent developments clearly show how smart strategies and strong partnerships are ensuring tigers are saved for centuries to come,” said Samper.

The combination of strict government-led anti-poaching patrols, voluntary relocation of villages away from tiger habitats, and the vigilant local presence of WCS conservation partners watching over tigers has led to the rebound of big-cat populations and their prey.

Similarly in Thailand, WCS conservationists report a tiger comeback in Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK) Wildlife Sanctuary — a 2,700 square kilometre protected area in the vast Western Forest Complex.

Meanwhile in Russia, government officials are drafting a new law that will make transport, sales, and possession of endangered animals a criminal offence rather than just a civil crime.

“I am confident that our conservation model of combining solid science with passionate local advocacy and effective government collaboration demonstrates practically how tigers can be brought back in emergent Asia,” WCS scientist Ullas Karanth who has led these tiger recovery efforts, said.

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