Nepal Announces Its Tiger Population Has Nearly Tripled Since Record Low In 2010

Mason Joseph Zimmer
Bengal tiger and her cubs walk through Bandhavgarh National Park
Wikimedia Commons | Brian Gratwicke

The Nepalese government has announced that its endangered tigers who were on the brink of extinction over a decade ago have rebounded in population to the point of nearly tripling their previous numbers.

This development comes at a watershed time in the global fight for biodiversity and against environmental degradation. Not only is this because our world is at a turning point that sees more species hurtling closer to extinction than ever, but also because efforts against this trend are coordinated and sophisticated to an unprecedented degree nowadays.

Although it's hardly a challenge to find bad news about where the world is headed, it can't be ignored that the past decade has also seen elephant populations double in Kenya and tiger populations show the same trend in India.

And it seems the good news for tigers has recently gotten even better as a conservation program in Nepal has seen even more impressive results.

With just 3,900 tigers existing in the wild today, it's hardly a surprise that they remain classified as endangered.

Bengal tigers interacting in Karnataka, India
Wikimedia Commons | Paul Mannix

But while that number indicates an uncertain future for tigers, CNN reported that it's a significant improvement over how dire the species' outlook seemed a decade ago.

According to The Guardian, this was particularly true in Nepal, where just 121 tigers once

roamed the nation.

As Ginette Henley from the World Wildlife Fund put it, "In 2010, it was clear we were going to lose tigers unless we made a concerted effort to turn things around."

Similar concerns among various governments led to the creation of a program intended to double the numbers of wild tigers worldwide called Tx2.

tiger enjoying a bath with half-lidded eyes in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Wikimedia Commons | Koshy Koshy

And in a July 29 statement from the World Wildlife Fund, they relayed an announcement from Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba that since this program was put into place, Nepal's tiger population has increased by 190%.

This brings the total of wild tigers to 355, which you'll notice is nearly triple the number seen in 2010.

As for how this happened, there were three major factors that effectively fought the two biggest dangers to tigers in Asia: poaching and habitat loss.

Bengal tiger and her cubs walk through Bandhavgarh National Park
Wikimedia Commons | Brian Gratwicke

According to The Guardian, Nepal not only instituted a crackdown on poaching, but also expanded the number of national parks to serve as habitats where the tigers can roam freely.

Also helping matters was the establishment of wildlife corridors to India. These are safe passages for animals to help them avoid what would otherwise be busy roads and highways.

In Henley's words, "Communities are the driving force behind this. They are employed to do reforestation, maintain that habit, and are directly involved in conservation.”

However, the news isn't all good and the reason why makes it clear that there is much progress yet to be made in coexistence between tigers and humans.

female tiger cubs playing at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Wikimedia Commons | Vedang Vadalkar

The rise in tiger numbers have also resulted in a rise in tiger attacks and the loss of livestock. And since similar issues in India have resulted in reprisals against the tigers, Henley is pushing for a more holistic approach before similar violence arises in Nepal.

CNN reported that measures like predator-proof fencing and lighting the perimeters of villages have helped to ward off tigers, but Henley said monitoring programs and compensation plans for lost livestock are also needed to prevent tensions from escalating.

As she put it, "Unless people living with tigers want them there, we’re not gonna have them there."

h/t: CNN, The Guardian