Nepal nearly triples its wild tiger population

A major conservation win in the fight to save tigers

Two young tigers run alongside a riverbank in Nepal

Nepal nearly tripled its wild tiger population! A 2022 survey revealed that there are 355 individuals now in the country, a more than 190% increase since 2009. It’s an incredible achievement and testament to the conservation efforts of the government, partners, and local communities over the last 12 years.

In 2009, Nepal had a wild tiger population of approximately 121 individuals and their numbers were decreasing. Determined to restore Nepal’s roar, the country joined the global commitment to doubling its wild population by 2022.

The journey to double tiger numbers

The tiger is deeply rooted at the heart of many traditional cultures across Asia. A symbol of strength and power, this iconic big cat is revered among communities. But 12 years ago, the future of this cultural icon was uncertain with populations at a historic low.

So Nepal played a leadership role in the global commitment to double wild tiger numbers. Among the many interventions needed to double wild tigers, one of the key elements of success was to partner with communities that live in tiger landscapes. Increasing tiger numbers increases the challenges of coexistence between people and tigers.

To help reduce the impact felt by communities, government compensation schemes have been put in place to replace livestock killed by tigers; support has been provided to reduce community’s reliance on resources such as firewood which is collected inside national parks; and income generated from tiger tourism has helped drive community development in some areas. 

Nepal continues to design and implement people-centered tiger conservation measures to reduce conflict, but the question of how people and tigers can coexist remains a critical challenge to resolve in order to keep people safe, and tiger populations healthy.

Tigers on the rise

In 2020 Nepal broke its high-altitude tiger sighting record not once, but twice, proving that its increasing tiger population is pushing the boundaries of its previously known range. Excitement encapsulated Nepal’s conservation community as one of these high-altitude tiger sightings was in Ilam at about 1.9 miles up and an incredible 155 miles east of Nepal’s previously known tiger range. These discoveries are exciting and an insight into potential future range expansion with the help of more research and conservation support.

Other successes include the country’s efforts to tackle poaching, which was once the greatest threat to tigers in Nepal. Protecting tigers can protect other species, too. Thanks to groups such as the protected areas patrolling units and community-based anti poaching units, the country has achieved zero poaching of rhinos since 2011. Rhino numbers are increasing in Nepal thanks to collective conservation efforts.

Nepal has proven that with political will, community leadership, and the right conservation measures, doubling tiger numbers is possible. But the work isn’t over and progress remains fragile. Nepal is evidence as to why we need robust and measurable goals focused on living with tigers and range expansion in order to ensure the future of this iconic big cat.