Yet only 3,890 remain in the wild. This is a shocking over 95% drop from 1900 when an estimated 100,000 wild tigers roamed free.
The cause? Rampant poaching and the loss of their natural habitat. But the prognosis is not all doom and gloom.
In 2010, governments of the 13 tiger range countries set in motion an ambitious and visionary conservation programme that aims to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 – the next Chinese year of the tiger.
The goal is called Tx2.
Despite intensive conservation efforts begun in the 1970s, tiger numbers reached an all-time low in 2010. It became imperative for tiger range governments to seek new and innovative strategies that involve a significant boost in resources and habitat protection to support the tigers in the future once their numbers have increased.
Why double, not ‘save’?
In other words, rather than focusing on ‘saving’ the tiger at a country or site level, Tx2 uses a strategic, long-term approach that works across entire landscapes and encourages trans-boundary collaboration. This means that there will be increased protection in the tigers’ current habitat as well as the maintenance of wildlife corridors and connectivity between regions.
For the first time in a century, global tiger numbers are increasing, but there is still a long way to go. This new number is not a trigger for complacency, but for action. Tigers are still threatened by poaching and habitat loss and, if we are to see this increase continue, governments must do more, particularly across parts of Southeast Asia where a tiger crisis rages.
Is TX2 Achievable?
WWF is dedicated to the global goal of 6,000+ wild tigers by 2022 and is supporting tiger range countries to ensure they reach this goal. This support has never been more critical. 2016 is the halfway point for Tx2 and we have witnessed the impact of the past six years work.
Tigers are cats and breed easily. Given adequate space, a prey base and protection, the wild tiger population can increase. Habitats for the increased tiger population have been identified, including 20 Tx2 recovery sites where tiger populations have the potential to recover rapidly if the required conservation investment is received. These sites are key areas of hope for Tx2. Reintroduction may also be possible in some countries.