There is good news for wildlife enthusiasts ahead of the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation that takes off tomorrow in New Delhi. The number of wild tigers has gone up globally by 22 per cent to 3,890, from the earlier 2010 estimate of 3200, based on the best available data, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum (GTF). The conservation meet will be opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, who represents the country that leads tiger population countries with an estimated population of 2226, according to a 2014 national survey. India’s own tiger population has gone up significantly from 1706, as per its own national estimates, reported by the IUCN in 2010.
The updated minimum figure, compiled from International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) data and the latest national tiger surveys, can be attributed to multiple factors including increases in tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, improved surveys and enhanced protection. “For the first time after decades of constant decline, tiger numbers are on the rise. This offers us great hope and shows that we can save species and their habitats when governments, local communities and conservationists work together,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
World Tiger Population map
In a statement released on Monday, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, said, “We have allotted Rs.380.00 crore to the Project Tiger in the current fiscal year, which is an all-time high and indicates that the Government of India is committed to the conservation of our national animal.”
Endangered Despite countries such as India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan registering a spike in tiger population, the status of the animal remains “endangered”. According to the WWF, hundred years ago there were 100,000 wild tigers. By 2010, there were as few as 3,200. Therefore, in 2010, tiger range governments agreed to act to double wild tigers by the next Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2022. This goal is known as Tx2.
“A strong action plan for the next six years is vital,” said Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tx2 Tiger Initiative. “The global decline has been halted but there is still no safe place for tigers. Southeast Asia, in particular, is at imminent risk of losing its tigers if these governments do not take action immediately.”
Prerna Singh Bindra, former member, National Board for Wildlife said that while it’s heartening that the tiger numbers have gone up both in India and world over, we cannot afford to get complacent.
“For one, poaching has peaked – this year till 31 March we have lost 25 tigers to illegal killing, this includes seizures of skins and bones,” she said, citing data from the Wildlife Protection Society of India. “Stepping up protection, empowering the foot soldiers in the field, and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is our first big challenge. Equally important is conserving tiger habitats and corridors. For instance, the expansion of NH 6 and 7, and of the Gondia –Jabalpur railway line has splintered the finest tiger landscape in the world: The central Indian Tiger landscape. Even the expert advised mitigation measures have been dismissed. Even within reserves, there are threats, the Ken-Betwa river links is within Panna (Madhya Pradesh), and is expected to submerge a large part of the Park’s core critical tiger habitat,” she said.
Statistics from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that a minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized by law enforcement officials between January 2000 and April 2014, which feed a multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade.
More than 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders will gather to discuss issues related to tiger conservation at tomorrow’s conference. Ministers and government officials from all Tiger Range Countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand, Vietnam - besides Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan, that have ranges of snow leopard will participate to decide the next steps in tiger conservation.