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India’s wild tiger population increases

WWF supported largest tiger survey ever undertaken

India, home to half the world’s wild tigers, announced today that its tiger population has increased to 1,706 from 1,411* since the last tiger census in 2007.

“In its detail, this tiger estimation exercise shows the importance India attaches to this prime conservation issue,” said WWF India Chief Executive Officer Ravi Singh.  “The results indicate the need to intensify field-based management and intervention to go beyond the present benchmark, bringing more people and partners into the process.”

The count was conducted by India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority with key partners, including WWF. It was the largest tiger population survey ever undertaken.

For the first time, the survey included non-Tiger Reserves and areas outside of national parks. The new figure includes the tiger population in the Sundarbans, parts of Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Assam. The Moyar Valley and Sigur Plateau in India’s Western Ghats Complex, a focus of recent WWF conservation efforts, was found to have more than 50 tigers.

Figures were broken down by site with some populations showing increases, such as the states of Assam and Uttarakhand, and others falling, including Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Despite the overall good news, the census noted an alarming decline in tiger occupancy from 36,139 to 28,108 square miles outside of protected areas, resulting in isolation of source populations. It also highlighted an increase in human-tiger conflict around tiger reserves, with more human presence in places such as Corbett, Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh.

“As seen from the results, recovery requires strong protection of core tiger areas and the corridors that link them, as well as effective management in the surrounding areas,” said Dr. Barney Long, Manager of WWF’s Asian Species Conservation Programs. “With these two vital conservation ingredients, we can not only halt their decline but also ensure tigers make a strong and lasting comeback.”  

The announcement was made at the opening of the three-day International Tiger Conservation Conference in New Delhi, where tiger range countries are discussing the next steps for the Global Tiger Recovery Program. The program, created at the Russian tiger summit in November,  maps out the first formalized international initiative to save the species from extinction.

Numbering more than 100,000 at the turn of the last century, tigers have lost more than 97 percent of their population and 94 percent of their home range in just 100 years.  They live in increasingly isolated pockets of Asia and the Russian Far East.

*Results - India Tiger Census

In 2011: 1,706
(range 1,571-1,875 tigers above 1.5 years old)

In 2007: 1,411
(range 1,165-1657)

By landscape complex:
Shivalik Gangetic Plains – 353 (range 320 – 388)
Central India Eastern Ghats – 601 (range 569 – 651)
Western Ghats - 534 (range 500-568)
Northeast Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains – 148 (range 118-178)
Sunderbans - 70 (range 64-90)

Additional facts:

  • Local communities were involved in the data collection and analysis.
  • Genetic analysis was used to estimate tiger populations from faecal samples.
  • Along with tigers, co-predators, prey, and habitat quality were assessed.
  • This was a pioneering attempt to estimate tiger populations in Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, using satellite telemetry and sign surveys.
  • The first estimation of tiger population was in Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra).

Read more about the census in India Tiger Estimate 2010.