Tiger populations are on the rise

Good news for wild tiger populations: New estimates show an increase of approximately 40% in wild tiger numbers, with 4,500 tigers in the wild.

This is the first climb in numbers in decades and signals a potential comeback for the species.

The increase in tiger populations is thanks, in large part, to a unified conservation effort among countries, including the United States.

The number of wild tigers — a critically endangered species around the world — has steeply declined over the past 100 years from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to an estimated 3,200 in 2010.

In 2010 tiger range countries agreed upon the Global Tiger Recovery Plan, an ambitious plan to save wild tigers from further decline and to double wild tiger numbers before the next “Year of the Tiger” in 2022.

The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with U.S. scientists and a range of governments and communities in countries such as India, Indonesia and Nepal, also have worked together to conserve the endangered animal.

New studies and initiatives lead the way

India is home to 75% of the world’s tiger population and has seen the greatest declines in tiger populations in the past.

To help tigers and local communities coexist, researchers at Columbia University and the Wildlife Institute of India analyzed five wildlife corridors — protected natural thoroughfares tigers use to move between protected areas. Their ultimate goal is to ensure there are wildlife corridors connecting protected tiger landscapes and to reduce human-tiger conflicts.

Bengal tiger adult and two cubs in the water (© Arindam Bhattacharya/Alamy)
A Bengal tiger mother and cubs play in the water in Bandhavgarh National Park on May 9, 2015, in Madhyapradesh, India. (© Arindam Bhattacharya/Alamy)

“We hope that this [study] offers a clear message about where the current science agrees, and can bolster existing efforts to conserve tigers and other species that share their habitat in central India,” Columbia University graduate student Jay Schoen, who was involved with the study, told the Columbia Climate School.

In Indonesia’s Leuser ecosystem, USAID supported Wildlife Response Units to work with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry officials to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The WRUs and ministry officials expanded the model in 221 communities and trained over 1,200 community members.

Since 2015, no tigers have been killed because of wildlife conflicts in this landscape, according to the 2021 END Wildlife Trafficking Strategic Review.

“It’s a fragile success,” Dale Miquelle, tiger program coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the Washington Post about the latest IUCN report. “There are still many pressures on tiger populations, and they are disappearing from some areas.”