- How many tigers are there?
- How is today’s crisis different?
- Where are tigers found?
- Why save tigers?
- How many tigers are there in each range state?
- Are tiger cubs counted as well?
- Estimated Number of Tigers per region
- How fast will tigers disappear without action?
- What is WWF’s Tx2 campaign?
- What is the World Bank’s investment in tiger conservation?
- Can we really save tigers in the wild?
Tiger questions you may need answers to...?
Current estimates put wild tiger numbers to be as low as 3,200. This number is derived partly from recent comprehensive estimates available from India, which supports nearly 43% of wild tigers in Asia.
Recent advances in science, coupled with modern technologies are helping biologists across Asia’s forests to derive a more realistic estimate of existing tiger populations. Individual identification of tigers from photographs using remote cameras as well as scat genetics, and rapid occupancy surveys in large landscapes have provided us with more reliable estimates of tiger numbers.
It is impossible to say exactly how many tigers there are in the wild because counting tigers is a notoriously difficult task. Tigers are wide-ranging, solitary, secretive animals that live mainly in Asia’s most remote and inaccessible areas. It takes enormous effort, skill and expertise to survey tigers and is very expensive to do properly.
But while experts do not have exact numbers, they have good data for some areas and some data for others, hence the estimated figures.
Tigers are found in 13 countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. They are known as tiger range states or tiger range countries.
Again, it is difficult to give exact numbers of wild tigers in each range state because of the varying level of knowledge and data available.
In some countries such as India, Nepal and Russia, tiger population census has been undertaken systematically for many years and there is, therefore, a good, precise understanding of fluctuations in numbers, trends and causes of change.
In other countries – Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam – we have very limited knowledge of the wild tiger population.
Therefore the numbers below are ballpark figures on the possible average estimations of tiger numbers by regions based on the best understanding of our experts.
No, only adult breeding female and male tigers are taken into consideration when estimating tiger numbers.
The mortality rate of tiger cubs is extremely high and only when they cross 2 years of age their chances of survival increase. Hence, population estimates for tigers are always based on adult breeding female and males.
Sunderbans - 200 tigers
Exact numbers are unclear especially on the Bangladesh side of the Sunderbans.
India, Nepal, Bhutan - 1650 tigers
The total for India is about 1400. The number in Nepal is 120, which is a relatively accurate figure.
Greater Mekong - 350 tigers
There are probably no more than 30 tigers each in Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. The majority of tigers in Greater Mekong are found in Thailand (at least 200-300) and Myanmar. The tiger population status in Myanmar is far from clear.
China/Russia - 450 tigers
Majority of the tigers are found on the Russian side of the border. Populations in China probably do not exceed 30.
Sumatra, Indonesia - 400 tigers
There has been no systematic tiger census here.
Malaysia - 500 tigers
This is the official government figure.
Efforts must focus on assessing population numbers more intensively and regularly if we are to reach the goal of doubling the wild tiger population by 2022.
During 2010 there will be new tiger estimates as new studies come in from several of the tiger range countries.
If no action is taken to stop the poaching and illegal hunting, and to enhance habitat protection, it is possible tiger populations in much of its range will drop so low that we may well reach a point of no return for wild tigers for many places in Asia before the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.
WWF’s Tx2, Double or Nothing tiger campaign aims to raise emergency funds to
- stop poaching,
- protect tiger habitat at an unprecedented scale, and
- clamp down on the tiger trade.
It supports the tiger range countries in achieving the goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next year of the tiger.
The campaign is building momentum and profile around the Tiger Summit process through a variety of means and channels. It positions wild tigers as a valuable and irreplaceable global asset – that by saving tigers, we save much more.
The campaign launched in February 2010.
The Tiger Summit will be held in September 2010 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
All Heads of State of the 13 tiger range countries are expected to attend the summit, which is co-hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the World Bank president Robert Zoellick. At the Tiger Summit, the tiger range countries and conservation community are expected to lay out an ambitious agenda for the recovery of tiger populations throughout its range.
The Summit is the culmination of a political process led by the governments of the tiger range countries and supported by many organisations including the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), a coalition of NGOs (including WWF) and institutions with a dedicated secretariat in the World Bank. The process is given particular momentum by the strong interest of influential leaders such as Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Ministers of Environment from Thailand, India and Bhutan, and the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick.
The process began with a workshop of tiger experts, scientists and government officials in Kathmandu, Nepal, in October 2009. Billed as one of the first intergovernmental planning meeting for range-wide protection of tigers, the workshop resulted in a set of recommendations on tiger conservation. These recommendations were then put forward to the 1st Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Hua Hin, Thailand in January 2010, where the goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022 was adopted as expressed in the Hua Hin Declaration.
Both these meetings also resulted in big conservation wins for the tiger, including expanded critical tiger habitat in Nepal and an enhanced wildlife patrol programme in Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng-Thung Yai’s Western Forest Complex.
The World Bank has established the Global Tiger Initiative, to help elevate tiger conservation on the international political agenda and strengthen conservation efforts. The Bank hopes to invest in high priority conservation actions, ensure that its own infrastructure investments do not damage tiger populations, and support investigations and economic analyses of key issues such as poaching and habitat conversion. The Bank also seeks to influence and promote improved national and global cooperation and commitment.
This is believed to be the first time in the Bank’s history that it has undertaken such a major and focused initiative targeting a single species, and indicates its concern over the tiger's plight.
How is today’s crisis different? Is there an increase in poaching? Why? What is making this more urgent?
Today’s tiger crisis is due to the deliberate and large scale illegal hunting of tigers to meet demand for tiger parts for use in health tonics and some traditional Asian medicine, meat for restaurants, and skins for fashion.
While the traditional Chinese medicine community has withdrawn the use of tiger parts as an ingredient, the lucrative black market trade has thrived, even occurring in some big cities in Europe and the US.
The situation is so acute that tigers have been wiped out in several areas set up to protect them. Traders are also storing dead tigers which increase in value as numbers of live tigers fall. Hence one of the objectives of WWF’s tiger campaign is to raise emergency funding to implement measures to stop poaching.
Why save tigers?
Tigers are part of our planet's natural heritage, a symbol of Earth’s biodiversity.
They are also akeystone species, crucial for the integrity of the ecosystems in which they live. As top predators, they keep populations of prey species in check, which in turn maintains the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.
In short, when tigers thrive, the whole ecosystem thrives.
This in turn provides important financial, cultural and spiritual benefits for local communities who live with or near tigers.
These ecosystems provide livelihood opportunities and ecological security (e.g. drinking water and non-timber forest products eg. fruits and nuts) to millions of people in the 13 tiger range countries throughout Asia.
In countries like Nepal and India, wild tigers are a major attraction, drawing tourists to national parks and wildlife reserves and generating real economic and social benefits for local rural communities.
Can we really save tigers?
This has been shown with the success of Project Tiger in the late 1970s. Back then, when tiger numbers were crashing in India – from an estimated 40,000 in the 1930s to fewer than 2,400 – WWF launched Operation Tiger, committing $1 million for emergency action. WWF then got Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi behind this massive effort. This led to the Indian Government launching Project Tiger and establishing a high-level Tiger Task Force to rebuild tiger populations.
Within months, several now world famous tiger reserves were established including Corbett in Uttar Pradesh, Kanha in Madya Pradesh, Manas in Assam, Ranthambhore in Rajastan, and Sunderban in West Bengal.
The areas were chosen according to the best potential for tiger conservation, including a strong existing population, possibilities to remove disturbance, and for extension of the protected area to adjoining forest areas to allow for expanding tiger populations. A core area of at least 30,000 hectares was established in each tiger reserve, free from human interference.
The effort had immediately positive results, proving that as a cat, tiger populations can recover quickly provided they, their habitat, and their prey are all protected. By 1979, the number of tiger reserves had increased to 11, with a further 4 added subsequently. Tiger censuses carried out subsequently showed an increase in tiger population.
Today as well, world leaders are making the right moves.
In September a Heads of State Tiger Summit will be held in Vladivostok, Russia. At the Summit, co-hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, tiger range countries and the wider tiger conservation community will lay out an ambitious agenda for the recovery of tiger populations throughout Asia.
This political process has already begun with tiger range countries adopting the goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger – a goal that WWF has been pushing – at the 1st Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Thailand.