What does the future hold for tigers?
Wild tiger numbers are at their lowest level ever.
If no action is taken, tiger experts believe wild tigers may disappear altogether by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger. But tigers can recover, and quickly – as long as they, their prey, and their forest home are properly protected.
Tigers are cats – and so breed easily. Given adequate space, prey, and protection from poaching, wild tiger populations can increase. Indeed, conservation efforts have achieved this before, in India (see box below) and the Russian Far East.Despite these successes, tiger populations are still declining – due to ongoing habitat loss and large-scale, systematic poaching to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts.
India: Project Tiger
Project Tiger is a wildlife conservation movement initiated in India in 1973 to protect tigers. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted tiger reserves representative of various regions throughout India and strives to maintain viable populations of Bengal tigers in their natural environment.
In 2008 there were more than 40 Project Tiger reserves covering an area over 37,761 km2 (14,580 sq mi). Project Tiger helped to increase the population of these tigers from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,500 in 1990s. However, a 2008 census held by the Government of India revealed that the tiger population had dropped to 1,411. Since then the government has pledged US$153 million to further fund the project, set-up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers, and fund the relocation of up to 200,000 villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.
The number of tigers in India's wild has gone up by 20%, according to the latest(2011) tiger census, which has surveyed the whole of India for the first time. The census puts the population of the big cat at 1,706. There were 1,706 tigers including tigers in the Sunderbans at the last count.