The small Himalayan country of Nepal shared some big news on Global Tiger Day.
Nepal’s government announced its tiger population has increased by 63 percent since the last survey in 2009—putting the number of tigers at an estimated 198 with a range between 163-235.
Nepal was able to definitively confirm that wild tigers are found in 12 of the 14 districts in the Terai Arc Landscape, which is also home to rhinos, elephants and nearly 7 million people. Remarkable tiger population gains were noted in:
- Bardia National Park—grew to 50 (45 - 55) from 18 (17 - 29) in 2009
- Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve—increased to 17 (13 - 21) from 8 (8 - 14) in 2009
- Chitwan National Park—rose to 120 (98 - 139) from 91 (71 - 147) in 2009
The first-ever joint tiger survey between Nepal and India in the transboundary Terai Arc Landscape began in January. In Nepal, this massive wildlife survey included over 260 trained staff, camera traps covering 1,870 square miles of tiger habitat and 7,699 tiger images.
This was funded by WWF UK, WWF Australia, WWF US, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Hariyo Ban Program (funded by USAID), and US Fish and Wildlife Service. WWF also played a major role from planning and implementation to the final data analysis.
A joint Nepal-India report is expected later in the year, which will provide a comprehensive estimate of wild tigers in the Terai Arc and inform conservation strategies for this global priority landscape for tiger conservation.
Protecting the future
With as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild there is still more work to be done. Nepal’s results are a major step toward the global goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022—also known as Tx2. “Tigers are a part of Nepal’s natural wealth and we are committed to ensuring these magnificent wild cats have the prey, protection and space to thrive,” said Megh Bahadur Pandey, Director General of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation
This increase in tiger numbers comes at a time when many countries are reeling under the onslaught of a poaching crisis. It is a testament to increased government commitment at all levels, effective intelligence networks and strong support from local communities. In recent years Nepal has stepped up antipoaching and law enforcement activities to stop wildlife crime. As both a key source and transit country for the wildlife trafficking, Nepal has had to be extremely vigilant.
“We cannot afford to forget that wildlife criminals are aggressively preying upon the last of the world’s wild tigers and if we allow complacency to creep in, all the conservation gains we applaud today could be gone tomorrow,” said Shubash Lohani, Deputy Director of WWF’s Eastern Himalayas program.
WWF calls on governments of other tiger range countries to commit to a series of global wild tiger counts. Three comprehensive counts, in 2016, 2020 and 2022, is the minimum required to track progress toward the goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022.