In 2010, 13 tiger range countries set a target of doubling the population of tigers by 2022 – the day is celebrated as Global Tiger Day. Years of effort have brought fruits. The recent IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) estimates the tigers' numbers have increased by 40 per cent – from 3,200 in 2015 to 4,500 this year. The recipe for it has been simple – government and community support, safe habitat, strict action on poaching, ensuring health and safety.
Though the world has not been successful in doubling the population of tigers in the stipulated time, the effort and achievement are speaking a lot. In South Asia countries, there is a significant rise in tiger population – India has doubled the population in 12 years and Nepal is in the queue of achieving the feat. In Russia and China, tiger population is likely to increase. In Northeast Asia, the number of tigers is stable but in Southeast Asia, the tiger population is at high risk.
Interestingly, in Nepal and India, the increasing population is definitely a boon, but also a curse. Tigers are solitary creatures. On an average, a male tiger needs 60-150 sq km and females 20-60 sq km of area with enough prey population to sustain. Increasing the requirement of safe habitat for tigers is creating a hurdle in the conservation of other carnivores. Not only that, but the straying of the young tiger population has also increased.
So this year, when these countries will again meet for the second Global Tiger Summit, they need to plan on the challenges that tigers may face for the next 12 years so that the world would not reach a situation like 2010 when it was feared that the planet would be without tigers. The plan should not only focus on the conservative tigers in countries like Malaysia where a good habitat for tigers exists but to take into account that the tiger population has plummeted to 150.
Moreover, a strategy to find a way in Nepal and India, to ensure that the rising population of tigers does not become a crisis, will also be crucial. Because in many tiger ranges, the number of tigers has exceeded the capacity of safe accommodation.
Nations should remember that they can’t become complicit, as the tiger is still classified as ‘endangered’ species. Poaching, habitat destruction and conflict with humans plummeted the tiger population across the world. It had lost 93 per cent of its range. So, we need to ensure that we plan a good strategy to conserve them.