Wild tiger population in Nepal is increasing

The wild tiger population in Nepal is increasing due to a program to prevent its extinction. There are now three times more wild tigers in Nepal than there were in 2009, according to the Nepalese government.

In 2009, the Nepal National Tiger and Prey Survey found that there were only 187 wild tigers in Nepal. This year’s 2022 survey found that there are now 355 wild tigers in the country, which is an increase of 190% since 2009.

The low numbers of wild tigers in Nepal in 2009 were due to poaching for the illegal animal trade and loss of habitat. At the St. Petersburg International summit on tiger conservation in 2010, governments of 10 countries with wild tigers set a goal to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president for wildlife conservation of the United States World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

In collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Nepalese government initiated a conservation program in 2010 to save the wild tigers.

Nepal is the first country to release updated tiger numbers to determine whether they had met the target set in 2009. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba announced the conservation success in his country on 16 September 2022. The 2022 Nepal National Tiger and Prey Survey covered 18,928 square kilometres (about 12% of the country) over 16,811 days of field staff time. 

Ginette Hemley said that Nepal stands out as a leader in the conservation of tigers. She said that the high level of support from the Nepalese government ‘has translated into really effective habitat conservation, bolstering the protection of tigers in national parks, the wildlife reserves.’ 

She said that one of Nepal’s strengths in tiger conservation is its wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors are forested pathways to help connect fragmented pieces of tiger habitats. According to the CNN report on the Prime Minister’s announcement in September, Nepal has been a pioneer in reforesting areas to ensure that the connected forested pathways are restored and maintained. Ginette Hemley said that as tigers mature and move away from their parents, they need to disperse. ‘That dispersal is only possible if tigers can move around safely.’

Protecting tigers also protects other endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species, because tiger conservation also protects the forest. In turn, protecting the forest also helps people and their local environment because forests are rich in carbon. 

Hemley said another key factor in Nepal’s successful tiger comeback is community involvement in conservation projects, such as community members employed to conduct reforestation, maintain the habitat, and be directly involved. Furthermore, the Nepalese government was committed to the goal to double its tiger population, and more importantly, to conduct a national survey to measure its progress against that goal.

Hemley of the WWF said that as the tiger population has recovered, ecotourism has become a popular tourist attraction in Nepal. The revenue from visitors attending protected national parks has helped to support community needs and investment in conservation projects.

An important part in the conservation of tigers is to find ways for humans and tigers to co-exist – this is called Social Carrying Capacity, which is the capacity for each community to tolerate a certain number of tigers coming into the area. 

Hemley says a holistic approach is needed to monitor tiger populations – to know where they are living and to make communities stay safer. Nepal has been successful in using practical tools, like predator-proof fencing for livestock and lighting the perimeters of villages at night to ward off tigers, as well as introducing compensation programs for farmers where tigers have killed their livestock.

The next step is to ensure that the other 9 country governments that said they would achieve the goal of doubling their tiger populations by 2022, are actually on track. Wild tigers have become extinct in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos since 2000. Nepal and India have had success in increasing their tiger populations, although India is yet to survey the exact numbers.

The World Wildlife Fund said that there are around 3,900 wild tigers in the world, and the species is endangered. Political leaders in countries with tiger populations have yet to initiate successful tiger conservation programs, and to monitor them, just as Nepal and India are doing. Conservation programs save tigers, increase eco-tourism, improve the environment, and protect both humans and wildlife.

Location of photographs: Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium, Australia

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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