An era of wild Tiger conservation

Wild tiger hanging in a tree in SUndarbans, Bangladesh. Photo: Foridi Numan.

In 2010, 13 countries, at the first tiger conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, set a goal to double the number of wild tigers in the next 12 years. After the conference, tiger range countries including Bangladesh took various steps to protect the wild big cats by the next Chinese Year of Tiger 2022. So, on 29th July – World Tiger Day is special for the tiger range countries.

To what extent the objectives set to increase the number of wild tiger have been implemented? Tiger conservation actions and results of 13 tiger-rich countries are highlighted in this report.

Tigers have increased in different forest areas of the world during this decade – said the International wildlife agency – Panthera in a report on 21 July. According to that report – from 2015 to 2022 in seven years tiger growth rate is 40%. Earlier in 2010, there were 3,200 tigers in the world, now it has increased to 4,500.

International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN informed that tigers are increasing at a significant rate in South Asia – especially in India and Nepal. In Northeast Asia, tiger numbers are relatively stable. Tiger numbers are increasing in Russia and along the China border.

However, the condition of tigers in Southeast Asia is the worst. Meanwhile, out of 13 tiger-rich countries, tigers have completely disappeared in three countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. There was no progress in conservation and breeding of tigers in those countries.

The IUCN’s latest assessment estimates between 3,726-5,578 wild tigers remain in Asia, with an average of 4,500 individuals; 3,140 of the 4,500 are estimated to be adult tigers. Representing 76% of the global tiger population, South Asia’s tigers are gaining numbers, particularly in India and Nepal, from where new population estimates are expected any day.


A wild tiger swimming in the Bardiya National Park, Nepal. Photo: Manju Mahatara.

In the 2018 survey, the number of tigers increased in India, Nepal, Russia and the countries also achieved the target of doubling the number of tigers. Bhutan achieved it partially. But the increase of tiger numbers in Bangladesh is not as expected; the rate of rising tigers is only eight percent.

In the Bangladesh part of Sundarbans, 106 tigers recorded during the tiger census in 2015, after then in 2018 tiger census, increased eight from 106 to 114 tigers. On the other side in India’s 52 tiger reserves the number of tigers is now 2,976.

Eight subspecies of tiger have become extinct – the Balinese tiger, the Javanese tiger and the Caspian tiger. And still five subspecies exist in the world – Bengal Tiger, Siberian Tiger, Sumatran Tiger, South China Tiger and Indo-China Tiger.

According to WWF – 124 tigers in Bhutan, 355 in Nepal, 580 in Russia and China, 600 in Indonesia, 150 in Malaysia, 150 in Thailand and 22 in Myanmar recorded in the recent census.

Experts said, more than half of the 10 tiger range countries are experiencing rapid declines of wild tigers. The Big Cats have been one of the endangered wild animals for the last few decades. Though the percentage of tigers increased quite a bit, the risk of extinction is still there… But the good news is awareness of tiger conservation increased globally over a couple of years. If it continues, zoologists say the animal could soon be saved from extinction.

Professor Monirul Hasan Khan, a tiger researcher and Head of Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, told Bengal Discover, “For the first time in history, the number of tigers has increased in many countries. We witnessed the reduction of tigers in the past 100 years, but it’s now turning positive. Globally tigers have increased by 40.6 percent.

“Now we need steps to sustain this significant progress. Already three countries are out of the race. 80% tiger number drops in Malaysia but the tiger number increases in India, Nepal, Bhutan and even in China,”  he added.

Monirul Hasan Khan also says, “Number of tigers rising in Bangladesh is 7.5%. It’s an indicator for the healthy ecosystem of Sundarbans and there’s no major damage to the forest yet. Still there is a healthy forest to sustain 200 tigers in Sundarbans. So effective measures should be taken to double the wild tiger.”

Tiger researcher and professor of Zoology Department, Jahangirnagar University. M A Aziz told Bengal Discover, “According to the 2018 survey status, 2,967 tigers in India. Which shows that they are close to the pledge made in 2010. Nepal has also managed a huge success to increase tiger population.

Tiger status in Bhutan is not bad either; they are also close to the target. However, the situation in Malaysia and Indonesia is worse. The number of tigers decreased as earlier.” Added M A Aziz.

Mollah Rezaul Karim, a Conservator of Forest in Bangladesh Forest Department narrated to Bengal Discover, “As a tiger range country, we want to increase the number of tigers and protect the big cats. Status of Bengal Tiger is better than past years in Bangladesh and FD is also taking more initiatives.”

Wild tiger hanging in a tree in SUndarbans, Bangladesh. Photo: Adnan Azad.
Tiger status in Bangladesh-India

Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forests covering 10,000 square kilometers between Bangladesh and India, 60 percent of the forest belongs to Bangladesh.

In the 2018 tiger survey, there were 114 tigers roaming in the Bangladesh Sundarbans territory. According to the 2019 survey of India, there are 96 tigers roaming in this country; in 2017 it was 87 only.

Experts said, Indian forest department has taken enough steps to increase the number of tigers in the Sundarbans compared to Bangladesh. As a result, increasing the number of tigers faster India part of Sundarbans than in Bangladesh.

Kostav Chowdhury, a wildlife researcher from India told Bengal Discover, “In order to resolve the tiger-human conflict, all the tribal communities have been relocated and resettled by our government. CCTV cameras are also being installed in tiger habitats and public movement is being monitored regularly, thus preventing poaching and trafficking of tigers.”

On the other side Professor Dr. M A Aziz says, “There was a global commitment to double the number of tigers. But Bangladesh committed that – initiatives will be taken to hold the reduction of tigers. However, in the context of Bangladesh, the number of tigers is on the way to increase.”

A wild tiger in Sundarbans. File Photo.

Conservator of Forest Mollah Rezaul Karim mentioned, “This year, enough tigers are seen in the Sundarbans, “Tigers hanging in trees have also been seen. Three tigers were also seen resting at one place; which never happened in the past years. I can say these are the indications of the good position of tiger numbers in Bangladesh.”

“Forest department will start the tiger census next winter. Then we can get the actual data and how good the tiger is,” he added.

Experts say, a few years ago shootings, abductions by forest bandits and law enforcement forces activities in the Sundarbans were a daily phenomenon in Bangladesh; which has now reduced. But human movement rises in the Bangladesh part of Sundarbans than in India. People freely enter the forest. Which is also the cause of increasing human- tiger conflicts. Though the authority implemented smart patrolling to control forest and wildlife related crime. But it’s not enough, saying tiger conservators.

Dr. M A Aziz says, “Several patrol posts are active in the Sundarbans. But still there is shortage of manpower for Smart Patrolling. So, patrolling and illegal activities – both are going on. A survey showed that only 10 percent of the poaching was caught, but much poaching and trafficking is still unknown,” added

“To protect big cats, we need to protect prey animals too. Otherwise it will be difficult to sustain the growth of the tiger population. It’s the time to take actual initiatives; CCTV cameras should be installed and need to rehabilitate the forest living people. To save tigers from natural disasters, we need to dig more ponds in the forest and protect those regularly to save tigers and other species,” he added.