There may be hope yet for the endangered Bengal tiger.
These majestic creatures, which once roamed the Earth in numbers topping 50,000, have seen their population quickly decline over the last century due to habitat loss and poaching. In 2008, the Bengal tiger was listed as an endangered species as more and more began dwindling away. Only about 4,000 Bengal tigers are alive today.
While all of these tiger statistics are grim, conservation efforts in Nepal have shown great progress.
In a survey carried out earlier this year, 235 Bengal tigers were accounted for in Nepal, which is nearly a two-fold increase from the 121 tigers recorded in 2009. Thanks to political involvement and innovative conservation strategies, the Bengal tiger population in Nepal may sustain itself longer than previously thought.
Tiger Numbers On The Rise
By utilizing more than 4,000 cameras and 600 elephants, wildlife experts were able to track tigers residing along Nepal’s southern planes. After traveling the 1,700-mile route, they amazingly found the tiger population doubled in size after 9 years.
Its important to point out that the population’s growth isn’t due to luck.
“This is a result of concentrated unified efforts by the government along with the local community and other stakeholders to protect the tiger’s habitat and fight against poaching,” said Man Bahadur Khadka, director general of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
The 2010 Conservation Plan
After severe deforestation and habitat loss ravaged big cat populations all across Asia, several countries decided to make a difference.
In 2010, Nepal and 13 other countries pledged to double their tiger populations by 2022 by signing the 2010 Tiger Conservation Plan. This plan has been backed by officials across the world, including high-profile celebrities like actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
“This significant increase in Nepal’s tiger population is proof that when we work together, we can save the planet’s wildlife – even species facing extinction,” DiCaprio said. “Nepal has been a leader in efforts to double tigers within its own borders and serves as a model for conservation for all of Asia and the world. I am proud of my foundation’s partnership with WWF to support Nepal and local communities in doubling the population of wild tigers.”
DiCaprio founded the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation in 1998 in an effort to protect the world’s wildlife.
The foundation has been actively working with the World Wildlife Fund, an international wilderness preservation organization, to increase tiger populations in Nepal and around the world.
Every Tiger Counts
Ghana Gurung, a representative of World Wildlife Fund, said the progress in Nepal is an example tiger conservationists around the globe should follow and take note of. Although, Gurung also notes the work to protect the world’s tigers is far from over.
“The challenge now is to continue these efforts to protect their habitats and numbers for the long-term survival of the tigers,” Gurung said.
“Every tiger counts, for Nepal and for the world,” said Gurung. “While Nepal is but a few tigers away from our goal to double tiger numbers by 2022, it also underscores the continued need to ensure protection, and improved and contiguous habitats for the long-term survival of the species.”