People, Environment

Tiger Numbers Worldwide Could Double by 2022

Tiger Numbers Worldwide Could Double by 2022Tiger Numbers Worldwide Could Double by 2022

When it was first proposed at a 2010 summit in Russia, the idea of doubling the numbers of tigers by 2022 seemed wildly ambitious – given the widespread habitat loss and poaching of the big cats.

But now a new study Friday in Science Advances suggests that the goal can be achieved. Using Google Earth and Global Forest Watch to asses high-resolution forest loss data from 76 tiger landscapes across 13 countries, the researchers concluded there was enough remaining wild habitat to allow their numbers to double to as many as 6,400 tigers – as long as those forested areas remained intact.

Their conclusion is based on the fact that habitat loss in these regions had only declined 7.7% over the 14 years of data they analyzed. The better-than-expected numbers came as a surprise, given that over the past century Asia’s largest predator has been decimated in 90% of its original range, Discovery News reported.

“When we did this study, we thought there would be a lot more forest loss because these are some of the fastest growing economies in the world, the tiger range countries,” University of Minnesota’s Anup Joshi, the lead author on the study, told

“What we found was that in most tiger conservation landscapes … it was pretty intact. That is because the protection is pretty good, the people on the ground are protecting the core tiger reserves,” Joshi said.

  Good, But Not Enough

The high point appears to be India and Nepal; countries that have seen their tiger populations increase 61% and 31% respectively, thanks to a combination of reforestation programs, better protection and active community involvement. Another factor is the success of nine corridors that link protected areas in both countries.

“In Nepal and India, conservation is going pretty strong and a lot of the community are involved,” Joshi said. “What this shows is that if there is a will and good protection is going on, we can still meet the goal of doubling wild tigers by 2022.”

But the story was very different in the 10 landscapes that resulted in 98% of the forest loss. Among those are Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos, where a combination of lax law enforcement and the expansion of oil palm plantations led to widespread deforestation.

Despite the overall optimistic outlook, the authors warned that the “conservation community must remain vigilant,” noting that $750 billion annually is expected to be invested in infrastructure projects over the next decade in tiger range states.

“Even if only a fraction of this investment finances new road construction within tiger landscapes, the effects of new road networks can be extensive,” the authors wrote, adding that a proposed superhighway between Myanmar and Thailand would go right through a tiger reserve while a major highway system in India would also be a threat to tigers.