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World tiger population increases by over 20 percent!

Kevin Law

The global tiger population has increased over the past five years by 22% in countries such as India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan. A rise from 3,200 in early 2010 to 3,890 this year. Surprisingly, there has also been an increase in poaching of this endangered species. In 2016, there have already been 25 tigers killed due to illegal poaching.

In honor of the increasing population, here’s what you need to know about tigers.

The world’s biggest tiger conservation conference:

India, the country with the highest tiger population, is leading the 3rd annual Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation this year in Delhi. The conference will host over 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders to discuss tiger conservation with ministers and government officials from countries throughout the Southeast asian and asian continents. This year the conference will focus on continuing to grow the tiger  population and create safe place for tigers to roam.

Tx2: raising the globe’s tiger population

Countries with the highest populations of tigers first met in 2010. It was the Chinese year of the tiger, and the participants committed to help double the number of wild tigers by the next Chinese year of the tiger, 2022. Tx2, as it has become known, has so far helped stop the global decline in tigers. Though the National Board for Wildlife warns governments to not get too comfortable. Michael Baltzer, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s Tx2 Tiger initiative said that, “The global decline has been halted but there is still no safe space for tigers.”

Why are reserves needed?

Tigers without safe spaces to roam become easy targets for poaching. Some of the biggest, and best tigers for trade are protected within the reserves and sanctuaries. Poachers are crafty though, they know the exact boundaries of where the reserve ends and begins. Meaning, that even tiger reserves that are located on the edge of forests are risky places for tigers to live.

Poaching gold:

The majority of tiger poaching happens in India. Poachers don’t go at the job alone. Tigers are hunted by poaching gangs.  The gangs form because male tigers are worth their weight in gold. The illegal tiger trade represents a more than a multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife market.

Poaching gangs kill them for tiger bones and fur pelts, and then sell these hot items to smugglers who list them most often on China’s black market. Tiger products are in high demand throughout China and other east Asian nations. Here, tiger’s bones are used to make a special traditional Chinese  medicinal draft that gives its drinker great strength, while the pelts are used to decorate luxurious homes.  

Penalties for poaching tigers depends on where the tiger is hunted. Therefore, poaching gangs are crafty in where they hunt for their gold. According to the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972, a poacher/poaching gang who kills a tiger outside of a designated reserve area will receive, at most, three years in prison and be fined. If a tiger is killed within a tiger reserve or natural park that sentence increases to seven years, along with a much steeper fine. Sadly, these penalties are hard to enforce across India.

Homegrown organizations policing the problem:

There are organizations that have helped deter tiger poaching. One of them is the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), founded by former filmmaker, Belinda Wright. The WPSI works to collect information on wildlife crime (mostly tiger) based- and assists local enforcement authorities in arresting poaching criminals. Since the society began in 1998, it has assisted in over 360 cases linked to tiger poaching, leading to 892 arrests.  

Organizations, like the WPSI have assisted in apprehending poachers and seizing their goods. The wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC has shown that from  January 2000 to April 2014, 1,590 tigers have been seized from poachers and illegal traders.

The future of the tigers:

Double the number of tigers by 2022? It is possible. Tiger protection depends on the work of international, national and local partners. It is imperative that the number of tiger sanctuaries and reserves increase and that their boundaries are adequately enforced to keep poaching gangs out. Additionally, harsher and better carried out sanctions against these gangs can further hinder this illegal trade.