It’s an alarming fact that there are so few tigers left in the wild. They’re an icon of the wild and it’s grim to imagine future generations knowing the magnificent tiger purely as an animal that lives and breeds in captivity.
To prevent this bleak prospect a goal has been set to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022. Known as Tx2, the goal was established at a global summit in St Petersburg in 2010. It was agreed by the governments of the 13 “tiger range countries”, where tigers still roam free: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam. Each country will monitor its tiger numbers and encourage conservation efforts in the hope that this target can be reached. It’s an ambitious task but we can achieve it.
Only 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, and over the last 150 years the animal’s natural habitat has shrunk by nearly 95 per cent. We also know that during the last century over 95 per cent of the world’s wild tiger population has disappeared. So is it possible to turn things around, and if so where do we start? Well, it seems that governments in tiger range countries, together with organisations such as WWF, are stepping up to the mission and increasing their efforts to achieve this critical goal.
Unfortunately, threats such as poaching are still with us. Indeed, poaching remains the greatest threat to wild tigers today – and, along with ivory and rhino horn, tiger parts remain in high demand.
However, good news is emerging from places such as Nepal, where tiger numbers are starting to recover. In fact, they seem to have the situation largely under control there: the last time a tiger was known to have been poached in Nepal was in May 2011.
In Pictures: Save the Tiger
In Pictures: Save the Tiger
1/9 Save the Tiger
Evgeny Lebedev, second left, with rangers from the regional government’s anti-poaching initiative
2/9 Save the Tiger
A Siberian tiger stands on a hill in the Hengdaohezi Breeding Center for Felidae in Harbin of Heilongjiang Province, China. The center, established in 1986, is the world's biggest captive breeding base for Siberian tigers and more than 800 Siberian tigers have been raised here
3/9 Save the Tiger
A Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) cools itself down in a pool in Rio de Janeiro
4/9 Save the Tiger
One of two Siberian tigers, delivered by Russia in a swap deal in which Moscow has procured two Persian leopards, is pictured in Tehran's Eram Zoo
5/9 Save the Tiger
Tiger skin seized from a smuggler by customs officers in Lhasa, Tibet
6/9 Save the Tiger
Javan tigers were slightly smaller than their mainland cousins but were renowned for their especially long whiskers (The Image Bank / Getty)
The Image Bank/Getty
7/9 Save the Tiger
A tiger at India’s Ranthambore National Park where four new sanctuaries and a ‘tiger corridor’ have been approved to stem the animal’s decline
Aditya Singh/AFP/Getty Images
8/9 Save the Tiger
A Bengal tiger track in Royal Bardia National Park, Nepal
9/9 Save the Tiger
A Bengal tiger captured by a camera trap in Nepal
We know from our domestic cats that they are prolific breeders. So, with the right conditions, it really is possible to achieve the Tx2 goal. Habitat loss has cut tiger populations off from each other, and this has led to a shrinking gene pool. Conservation work must therefore focus on connecting tiger populations to ensure that the animals can mix and breed.
With enough protection, enough prey and water, and with their habitats reconnected, tigers will be able to mix and breed, and we will see them make a comeback. It’s not about “saving” tigers any more.
Video: 97% of tigers' habitats have disappeared
We need to be ambitious: the task now is to increase the number of tigers in the wild. We need to just give them a chance.
Ben Fogle is a WWF-UK ambassador
How to help:
Text: TIGER 70060 to make a £3 donation
Telephone: 0844 7360036
To adopt a tiger: bit.ly/WWFAdopt
To donate to WWF Russia: wwf.org.uk/protecttigers
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.org.uk/tigerterms. WWF UK, charity registered in England, number 1081247, and in Scotland, number SC039593.Reuse content