Save the tiger: Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

On International Tiger Day, the need to verify how many of these beasts still exist has never been more urgent


Global experts reckon that the wild tiger population has dropped by 97 per cent since 1900. We’re bombarded by so many shock-horror statistics about the state of the world that a lot of them just bounce off us. But that one sticks: 97 per cent.

Tomorrow is International Tiger Day, and The Independent is working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to highlight the plight of the tiger. No one’s quite sure exactly how many tigers there are alive today, but back in 2010, the global population was estimated at 3,200, which makes them one of the most endangered species on the planet.

But even that figure required significant guesswork, as many countries at that time had not undertaken systematic national tiger surveys. Wild tiger numbers are currently known for India, Nepal and Russia, which carry out regular national surveys, and numbers will soon be known for Bhutan, Bangladesh and China – all of which are in the process of carrying out surveys. Less is known about the size of tiger populations in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The year 2010 was also the point (at the Tiger Summit in St Petersburg) at which governments from the 13 tiger-range countries committed to doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022. We are now more than a third of the way to 2022, meaning we need to move at a faster, more determined pace if we are to achieve that goal of doubling tiger numbers.

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them to poachers without even knowing it. Surveying after tigers have been poached is too late. At the moment, Malaysia and Indonesia are the most crucial countries – both potentially have a significant proportion of the global tiger population and contain two tiger subspecies. However, both are facing great threats from poaching and habitat loss.

And that’s why, on World Tiger Day, NGOs such as the WWF are urging countries to carry out surveys urgently. It takes at least a year to complete a survey, as well as an additional six to 12 months to plan, so these surveys must start now if an updated global tiger figure is to be released by the halfway point in 2016.


One of the key ways conservation can help to increase tiger numbers is by bringing groups together to breed, and as national surveys track tiger populations, locations and trends, this is an essential part of any conservation effort. Surveys also reveal where tigers are living outside protected areas or moving between protected areas through unknown or unprotected corridors. Governments need this information in order to focus anti-poaching efforts effectively – another essential task to reach 2022’s target.

Read more: Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger, dying out - a majestic animal on its knees
Save the tiger: 7 saddening facts about the extinction of Javan tigers
Save the tiger: Poaching facts
International Tiger Day: Here's everything you need to know

Each and every tiger is visually distinctive. Just as humans can be identified by their fingerprints, tigers can be recognised by their stripes, which form a unique pattern. No two tigers are identical. But the principal problem to national tiger surveys is that they are very labour-intensive, and often take place in difficult terrain with challenging weather conditions. And that means they’re expensive. However, the returns far outweigh the investment, and NGOs are working with governments to share technical expertise and explore potential funding sources, including international and private environment granting institutions.

Poaching remains the greatest threat to wild tigers. In 2012, tiger-poaching  levels reached their highest for 12 years, with as many  as 71 killed in India. Sixty-three were lost in 2013.  More than 70 per cent of Amur tiger deaths are caused by humans.

Statistics from Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that a minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized between January 2000 and April 2014. That represents an average of two per week, and, sadly, actual poaching levels are likely to be much higher. It is feared that countries not carrying out national tiger surveys could be losing their tigers to poachers without even realising it. This may already be the case for some countries.

A Bengal tiger captured by a camera trap in Nepal A Bengal tiger captured by a camera trap in Nepal (WWF) These alarming facts highlight why tiger-range countries must carry out these surveys. It may sound geeky, but both successful fundraising and effective programmes on the ground depend on this kind of accurate, reliable data.

How to help:

Text: TIGER 70060 to make a £3 donation

Telephone: 0844 7360036

To adopt a tiger:

To donate to WWF Russia:

This is a charity donation service.  Texts cost £3 plus one message at  your standard network rate (age 16+; UK mobiles only). The WWF will receive 100 per cent of your £3  gift. The WWF may contact you  again in future. If you would prefer  it not to call, please text NOCALL WWF to 70060. If you would  prefer not to receive SMS  messages from the WWF, please  text NOSMS WWF to 70060. If  you wish to discuss a mobile  payment call 0203 282 7863.  Except for the Adopt a Tiger programme, donations made  through the provided links and telephone number will go towards  the WWF’s tiger projects in the Russian far east.  For more details, visit WWF UK, charity registered in England, number 1081247, and in Scotland, number SC039593.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living