Tiger numbers potentially increased 40% in seven years - from 3,200 in 2015 to 4,500 in 2022 - representing the first climb in decades
Urging cautious optimism, scientists suggest advances in counting tigers may explain possible increase
July 22, 2022
Media Contact: Susie Weller Sheppard, 347-446-9904, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY - In a tremendous turning point for a species on the brink of extinction, the global tiger population has stabilized and potentially increased, according to the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species Assessment, led by Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization. New data suggests a potential 40% increase in tiger numbers, from 3,200 in 2015 to 4,500 in 2022, despite extreme threats. Signaling a potential comeback for the big cat in the Year of the Tiger, this represents the first potential climb in the species’ numbers in decades.
Panthera Chief Scientist and Tiger Program Director, Dr. John Goodrich, stated, “While a monumental amount of protection and funding are still needed before proclaiming ‘mission accomplished,’ these numbers signal previously incomprehensible stability in the global tiger population, and even increases in some protected areas. This is nothing short of a watershed moment in the history of the species, made even more remarkable given the overwhelming threats tigers face at every turn.”
Goodrich continued, “Protected area population increases in India, Nepal and Thailand are particularly encouraging as they demonstrate that the recipe for saving tigers can be tailored and replicated across the species’ range. If progress continues as it has in the last decade, I fully expect tigers to be reclassified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the next IUCN Red List Assessment in seven to ten years.”
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. In Northeast Asia, numbers are relatively stable in Russia and likely increasing along the border with China. Of all regions, however, Southeast Asia’s tigers are faring the worst, with tigers having been lost from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam since the turn of the century.
Panthera scientists cautioned that although new data suggest more tigers exist in the wild than previously estimated, this is partly due to improvements in or a more complete counting of the species, which has made population comparisons over time unreliable. As recently as 15 years ago, scientists were forced to make educated guesses about tiger numbers, but the invention of and subsequent advances in camera trap technology, genetic testing, data modeling, government collaboration and more rangers tracking tigers has vastly improved monitoring efforts.
Inconsistent monitoring methods by tiger range states have produced false positive population increases as well. Previous IUCN assessments, including that led by Panthera, have also incorporated highly conservative population estimates or underestimates, nearly guaranteeing increases in future tiger population estimates like that announced today.
Still, the 2022 IUCN Assessment is now the most reliable and scientifically sound estimate of tigers ever conducted and serves as the first reasonable baseline against which scientists can measure future changes in the global tiger population.
In 2010, at the first Global Tiger Summit, the world committed to a highly aspirational goal of doubling global tiger numbers or at least reaching 6,000 individuals by 2022. Having fallen short of this goal, tiger range states and scientists will gather for the second Global Tiger Summit this year to set a new 12-year tiger recovery plan.
As part of an unparalleled alliance, the Coalition for Securing a Viable Future for the Tiger, including Panthera and five other tiger conservation leaders, has outlined a vision and strategies for the 2022 tiger recovery plan. In particular, scientists have noted that growth in South Asia’s tiger population is offsetting declines in Southeast Asia, a critical trend highlighting that future tiger recovery goals must consider, rather than overlook, increases in both tiger range and populations.
Panthera Tiger Program Deputy Director, Dr. Abishek Harihar, stated, “With the eyes of the world on the upcoming Global Tiger Summit, let us take hold of this new momentum and devise another highly ambitious recovery goal that emboldens international collaboration, innovation and funding to grow both tiger numbers and range in the long-term.”
Serving as one of the Planet’s ultimate biodiversity protectors, the reality remains that the tiger is still classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with the Malayan and Sumatran subspecies listed as “Critically Endangered.” The species has lost 93% of its historic range and in the last century its numbers have plummeted from 100,000 to potentially 4,500 today. Poaching that feeds the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss and conflict with people endure as the tiger’s greatest threats.
Active in seven tiger range states, Panthera’s Tigers Forever program aims to increase tiger numbers at key sites by at least 50% over a ten year period. To address the most pressing threats facing tigers — poaching and habitat loss — the program is focused on training and outfitting law enforcement patrols to secure protected areas; conducting scientific monitoring of tiger and prey populations; and connecting and protecting tiger habitat.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards, tigers and the 33 small cat species and their vast landscapes. In 39 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit panthera.org