Saving Tigers – Global Tiger Recovery Programme


Ten years ago the Global Tiger Recovery Programme was launched. All 13 countries that contain tiger range states committed to the programme with the focussed goal of doubling tiger numbers in the wild by 2022.

How is the project going?

Two years left before the ambitious 2022 goal, Dr John Goodrich, writing in the Sustainability Times, has reported that there has been some success in some of the range states but others are doing less well. India and Nepal are the leading success stories, however, Southeast Asia is fairing less well. Myanmar has less than 20 tigers left in the wild, and there is speculation that the Malaysian tiger could be extinct within 5 years. Thailand has the only breeding population of Indo-Chinese tigers left, with the subspecies being extinct in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

What is being done well?

The progress in India and Nepal is down to a number of conservation efforts…

  • Their attention is focussed on sites that can support 70 or more tigers
  • The sites aren’t threatened, they are protected
  • Rangers have been trained and provided with the latest technology so as to stay ahead of poachers
  • They are promoting a climate of poachers being brought to justice to act as a deterrent
  • They are providing alternatives to the resources that the locals rely on from the protected land, which reduces pressure on the habitat
  • Corridors of protected land have been created so that tigers can move between habitats
  • Educational support has been provided within communities in proximity to the habitats so that humans and tigers can co-exist

What are the main threats to success?

Poaching is an obvious threat, and there is a huge need to dismantle the poaching networks and reduce the desire for poaching related products. Equally important is the need to stop habitat destruction, and where tiger populations are starting to recover there is the need for management of human-tiger conflict.

What has been learnt so far?

Increasing numbers is definitely the goal, but Dr John Goodrich also says how we measure progress should change. We shouldn’t try and measure success by tiger count but instead monitor trends in tiger numbers. The reason for not trying to measure exact numbers is that it is very hard to do. In small national parks it can be done, but in larger more inaccessible areas the elusive tigers are less easy to track.

The timeline for the project is too short. The goal of doubling numbers within twelve years is unrealistic in terms of a result. Tackling poaching, and community awareness take time. Dr Abishek Havihar, in his article published in the scientific journal PLOS One has suggested 30 years would be a more suitable timeline.

Ranger training and technology for use against poachers is now in place across all ranges. However, now the effort has to be to implement proven conservation solutions such as those in India and Nepal across all tiger range states.

We should praise successes in India and Nepal but not get carried away. The threats are still there so need to continually keep on top of them. Despite some success tigers are still endangered.

If you are interested in learning more about how to help protect tigers please visit our Adopt a Tiger page.

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