I guess I will try to be positive here and note that the 13 Asian nations with tigers have publicly committed to preserving tiger habitat. The less positive part of me thinks it will probably end up like most of these agreements and not actually do anything. And then there’s the issue of poaching for the newly wealthy Asian markets.
Many of the countries have growing human populations and fast-developing economies. By 2022, they want to double the world’s wild tiger population from the all-time low of 3,200 hit in 2010.
On Monday, conservation groups announced that the world’s tiger count had gone up to 3,890, according to 2014-15 survey data. That marked the first increase in the wild population census in more than a century. But that did not necessarily mean there were more tigers in the wild. The higher number may just mean scientists are getting better at counting them, with more sophisticated survey methods including camera traps and DNA analysis of scat.
An actual increase in wild tiger populations would also be hard to reconcile with the fact that their habitat is shrinking so fast. In just the last five years, tigers lost a full 40 percent of their remaining natural habitat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“The tiger is still teetering on the brink of extinction, and a too-hasty celebration of an increase in tiger numbers will only disservice efforts for the species’ conservation,” said John Goodrich, tiger program director at the New York-based big cat conservation group Panthera.
He and other tiger biologists said it was unrealistic to think the world could double its wild tiger population by 2022, unless tiger landscapes were vastly increased. Today, tigers roam across just 7 percent of their historical range.
Still, sometimes you have to hold on to whatever positive news you can find.