Late last year, the country of Nepal proudly shared the good news that their tiger population had doubled since 2009. Less than a decade ago, there were just 121 wild tigers living within the country’s borders. As of now, that number has increased to over 235.
So, how did Nepal achieve such a great feat? What lessons can we all learn from their actions to help increase wild animal populations around the globe?
Their success is largely contributed to a push for greater conservation efforts and the creation of Nepal’s Tiger Conservation Action Plan, which included the addition of innovative tools to help wildlife survive and thrive.
The World Wildlife Fund notes the country’s political commitment to conservation, something that has clearly paid off.
Nepal banded together as a nation –citizens, government, wildlife conservation funds, and even Leonardo DiCaprio, all worked together to protect natural habitats and wildlife.
As part of Nepal’s Tiger Conservation Action Plan, these efforts included the construction of passageways to connect different protected habitats so that tigers have more freedom to move between interconnected safe spaces.
In addition, they identified prey species and then worked to improve their habitats.
The country created incentives to promote citizens to report any poaching activity. That’s, in part, how they achieved 365 days with zero rhino poaching in May of last year.
“Our commitment to the Global Tiger Recovery Program gains new ground with Nepal’s growing tiger numbers and a successful implementation of Nepal’s Tiger Conservation Action Plan,” said Bishwa Nath Oli, Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment.
Animals were carefully tracked and counted using cameras and occupancy surveys.
“Nepal conducted its national tiger survey between November 2017 and April 2018 in the transboundary Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), a vast area of diverse ecosystems shared with India,” states the World Wildlife Fund press release.
A variety of surveys and surveillance measures were implemented to determine the number and density of tigers. Line transfer surveys were used to calculate prey density.
The survey was led by the Government of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Department of Forests. In addition, they worked with the WWF-Nepal, Zoological Society of London, and the National Trust for Nature Conservation.
“This significant increase in Nepal’s tiger population is proof that when we work together, we can save the planet’s wildlife – even species facing extinction,” said Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Hollywood hunk is a WWF-US board member and chairman. He also runs his own tiger conservation fund, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which funds tiger conservation in Nepal, as well as other parts of the world.
“Nepal has been a leader in efforts to double tigers within its own borders and serves as a model for conservation for all of Asia and the world. I am proud of my foundation’s partnership with WWF to support Nepal and local communities in doubling the population of wild tigers,” DiCaprio added.
At the St. Petersburg Summit in 2010, a goal called “TX2” was put in place to double the world’s tiger population by 2022. Nepal is well on its way to helping the world achieve this record!
“While Nepal is but a few tigers away from our goal to double tiger numbers by 2022, it also underscores the continued need to ensure protection, and improved and contiguous habitats for the long-term survival of the species,” said Dr. Ghana S Gurung, Country Representative, WWF-Nepal.
The WWF estimates that there are 5,000 tigers living in captivity in the US. That’s more than all the wild tigers living across Asia.
It is estimated that 3,890 wild tigers live in the world – most of them in Asia. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an increase from 2010, when the WWF estimated that there were 3,200 wild tigers living in the world.
Wild tigers are considered an endangered animal. Up until now, populations have been in decline every year since the 1900s. In 1900, it was estimated that there were 100,000 tigers living wild and free.
This is the first time in a long time that we’ve seen an increase in tiger populations. That alone is promising.