Make tigers count in Year of the Tiger

Amy Van Gelder

With 1st February 2022 being the start of the Year of the Tiger, this charismatic big cat will be hitting the headlines. But, how much do you really know about the conservation of this majestic species?

The past

Tiger populations plummeted from around 100,000 individuals in the early 20th century to 3,200 individuals in 2010, occupying just 7% of their original range. So, in 2010, the last Year of the Tiger, the heads of state of the 13 tiger range countries came together at a Global Tiger Summit. They made a commitment to a Global Tiger Recovery Programme and signed a declaration to double wild tiger numbers by 2022. 

Tiger overlooking its territory

The present

Tigers are no doubt in a better place than they were 12 years ago. Conservation is making use of new technology and is more scientifically rigorous. People are being included rather than excluded from the picture as conservation is becoming less “colonial”. Protection measures are systematic, data-driven and intelligence-led and some populations are no doubt growing. Nepal and India are noted as countries where the tiger populations are increasing however their efforts are not being replicated across all landscapes due to a lack of political will and financial investment. This lack of consistency leaves scientists unable to provide a scientifically rigorous global population estimate. 

Nepalese woman with her predator-proof corral facilitated by ZSL Nepal

The future

As the heads of state of the 13 tiger range countries meet again at the next Global Tiger Summit in September, they will analyse the results of the Global Tiger Recovery Program and set the priorities for the next 12 years. We anticipate priorities to include:

  • Demand reduction for tiger parts and the phasing out of tiger farms to stop protection efforts turning our landscapes into battlegrounds.  
  • As tiger populations increase and disperse into surrounding areas, countries will need to facilitate pathways between islands of well-financed and expanding Protected Areas.
  • Many rangers across tiger countries are still undervalued and paid daily rates, with little benefits and basic equipment and training. Professionalising rangers should be an important focus, but it relies on government commitment.  

Government commitment to conservation is a fickle thing, dependent on finances, leadership stability, and being able to follow through on promises. Unforeseen circumstances like COVID-19 can derail even the most committed governments as economies are crippled by the effects of the disease. Just last week, the Thai press reported that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked for additional funds to prevent 4,500 rangers from facing a 25% pay cut or being laid off.

Tiger walking in the forest

What you can do

As an apex predator, the tiger stands as the guardian of its range, protecting the balance of the ecosystem. After everything humans have thrown at it, the species has survived. It has earned its stripes and we need to earn ours too! 

WildCats Conservation Alliance is an initiative of the Zoological Society of London and Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation channelling support for wild tiger and Amur leopard conservation projects. They are calling on everyone to make tigers count this year and you can help by sending a donation to protect wild tigers across Asia. Donate today.

For more information on Year of the Tiger visit the WildCats Conservation Alliance webpage and follow them on social media. You can also join them on their conservation podcast ‘WildCats Pawcast’ wherever you get your podcasts. In each episode, they speak with experts from around the world working to save wild tigers and their habitats and take a deeper dive into the threats and solutions affecting the future of the species. 

#tigerguardians #yearofthetiger2022  

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