Dead of winter 2011 when I got the call inviting me to come quickly to Kathmandu to help collar a young male tiger and drive him across the country. This was part of a broader relocation effort to reestablish tigers in their historical range; nobody says no to such a thing. So I jumped on a plane in a Chicago blizzard, flew to Istanbul and then on to Kathmandu, then drove west to Chitwan National Park. I’ll never forget the sound of the tiger’s roar at close range—nor the bulk of his massive paws, the silky softness of his hair, or the long nighttime journey to Bardia National Park.
No accident we were there. It was all part of the 2010 commitment of 13 tiger-range states to double the population of wild tigers by 2022 in an initiative known as Tx2. And today, at the end of that initiative, Nepal’s tiger population has nearly tripled to an estimated 355 individuals. The rise is a result of protecting key habitats and corridors, delivering economic benefits for local communities, and hefty enforcement in support of the country’s laws against wildlife trade. In India, the wild tiger population has more than doubled from its 2008 baseline, and the country is home to about 70% of the world’s wild tigers. Unfortunately, those gains are offset by tiger losses elsewhere—but we still bent the curve. And nine decades of population loss now turns upward with an impressive increase in global population.
Nothing inspires imitation like success, and our dream is to repeat Tx2 in Latin America with that continent’s apex predator, Panthera onca—the jaguar. The cat is stealthy, powerful, and generally nocturnal, with a habitat that stretches across 18 countries from northern Mexico to Argentina. The majestic jaguar is a symbol of power for many Latin American cultures. It represents the power of nature and is seen as the protector of the rain forest.