Tigers, all species of which are endangered, are only found in certain Asian countries. However, two of them recently shared population estimates, and they’re headed in the right direction.
Bhutan, a small Himalayan country located between India and China, has reported a new count of 131 tigers, tallied during its National Tiger Survey 2021-2022. Though the population is small, that’s a 27% increase over the last count in 2015. India, meanwhile, which is home to the majority of the world’s tigers, reported an annual increase of 6%, as it hit 3,682 tigers.
Conservation organizations are congratulating Bhutan on the sharp increase.
Chimi Rinzin, Country Director of WWF-Bhutan, says, “This is a significant achievement and an indication of a very healthy ecosystem. It also underlines Bhutan’s commitment to biodiversity conservation. WWF commits to continue working with the Government and partners towards holistic conservation efforts benefiting both people and wildlife.”
Bhutan’s survey involved 85% of the country, with tigers photographed at more than 15% of 1,201 camera trap locations. The survey also showed that tigers are breeding at a variety of altitudes within the country, which has reported tiger sightings at the highest elevations in the world: over 14,000 feet.
There were also threats highlighted by the survey. Those include habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.
Human-wildlife conflict is a threat in India, as well, where between 40 and 50 people are killed by tigers each year. The survey, along with WWF, acknowledged that to keep the tiger population thriving, such conflicts need to continue to be addressed as part of species management. They say that more conflict leads to decreased tolerance for the animals and safety issues for them and people in their vicinity. WWF and the Bhutanese government are working with communities and other partners on holistic management strategies to address conflict.
The increasing number of tigers provides plenty of benefits, from ecosystem boosts to improvements to the environment, and even help for farmers, who may see less destruction of their crops when tigers are in the area. This is because research has found the big cats drive smaller predators away from them and closer to farmland, where they eat pigs and deer, which often damage crops.
Dechen Dorji, Senior Director of Asia Wildlife Conservation, at WWF-US, says, “Tigers are instrumental in maintaining the healthy forests, rivers, and streams we all depend upon, and Bhutan’s conservation success gives us hope. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of countries and organizations, we are witnessing one of the most successful wild tiger recovery stories in recent history. The report serves as a call to action for continued efforts to protect tigers and their habitats for future generations.”
Among the steps taken over the past 10 years to help the tiger population have been increased law enforcement, community-based tiger conservation programs, habitat improvement, and human-wildlife conflict management interventions.
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