At a time when tiger populations are dwindling worldwide, a government-led initiative has seen major success in restoring India’s tigers.
On Tuesday, India’s Minister for Environment and Forest, Prakash Javadekar, announced that the country’s tiger population has increased by 30 percent. The announcement accompanied the release of India’s Tiger Estimation 2014, a tiger census for 17 of the nation’s 29 states.
“Around seven to eight years ago, we were worried about decreasing numbers of tigers,” said Javadekar. “But we should now congratulate the National Tiger Conservation Authority for their efforts in putting an end to it. We have today 70 percent of world’s tigers. We have witnessed an increase of 30 percent in tiger population since the last tiger estimation in 2010.”
Over the course of the twentieth century, tigers were decimated in the wild. Hunting, poaching and habitat encroachment has cut the population 96 percent, from about 100,000 in the early 1900s to roughly 3,500 today. Since 1987, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has listed them as Appendix I, or most threatened with extinction.
In 2010, BBC reported that illegal trade in tiger parts led to the deaths of over 1,000 wild tigers over the last 10 years. This figure was based on the contents of 481 seizures though, as Pauline Verheij, joint TRAFFIC and WWF tiger trade program manager, notes, “With parts of potentially more than 100 wild tigers actually seized each year, one can only speculate what the true numbers of animals are being plundered.”
India’s success in rebuilding its tiger population has been driven by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA), which has created a tiger protection force, a program to care for orphaned tiger cubs and pursued anti-poaching measures. Along with government conservation efforts, this has allowed the Indian tiger population to rise from 1,706 in 2011 to 2,226 in 2014. The tigers were catalogued through the use of nearly 10,000 cameras positioned around a 3.78 square kilometer forest area.
India is estimated to contain approximately 70 percent of the world’s remaining tigers.
In his speech, Javadekar said India wants to play a key role in global tiger conservation and has offered to donate tiger cubs to other nations.