Tigers roar back: Nepal meets goal to double wild tiger numbers

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Nepal has more than doubled the number of wild tigers to 355 individuals according to the results of a new national survey. 

The historic 190% increase since 2009 is a result of the protection of key tiger habitats and corridors, partnership with local communities and cracking down on illegal wildlife trade. 

Wildlife charity WWF has praised this “inspirational” conservation success. These results were announced by Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and follow the country’s National Tiger and Prey Survey 2022. The survey, in which WWF-Nepal played a key part, highlights the importance of maintaining and rigorously protecting core habitats, partnering with communities to ensure long-term conservation success, and expanding conservation to include corridors and habitats beyond existing Protected Areas. 

An extensive effort covering 18,928 sq. km – over 12 per cent of the country – and 16,811 days of field staff time was invested to complete the survey, which identified individual adult tigers based on stripe patterns. The results bring hope and reassurance about the tigers’ long-term future in Nepal. 

The target to double wild tigers, also known as Tx2, was set by governments in 2010 at the St. Petersburg International summit on tiger conservation. With this announcement, Nepal is the first country to release updated tiger numbers during the Year of the Tiger. Tiger range countries are meeting next month to begin discussions on the next 12-year commitments for tiger conservation under the Global Tiger Recovery Program. 

WWF-Nepal was an implementing partner in the survey which was led by the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation with support also from other conservation organisations (National Trust for Nature Conservation and ZSL Nepal). WWF-Nepal was involved from survey design to data analysis via both technical and financial support to the Nepalese Government. 

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While securing the future of Nepal’s tigers across vast landscapes has always been a challenge in the face of various threats, the latest estimate indicates the effectiveness of the conservation measures from the Nepalese Government, WWF and other organisations working in the sector. 

Becci May, Senior Programme Advisor, Asia Programmes, WWF-UK, said: “Nepal’s achievement of more than doubling the number of tigers in the wild is down to long-standing political will and the support of local communities. The commitment of the people of Nepal to reducing poaching and protecting tigers is inspirational and can serve as a model for conservation elsewhere.  

“Sadly, despite success stories like Nepal, tigers are still the most threatened big cat species globally, reduced to just 5% of their historic range. Yet when we protect tiger habitat, we protect so much more – tigers play a key role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and the vast areas of forest they require are a vital carbon store. Halting and reversing nature loss is the key to allowing both people and wildlife to thrive.” 

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