Tigers in Nepal have made an incredible comeback from extinction, with the population historically rising by 190 per cent since 2009.
Nepal’s National Tiger and Prey Survey found there are currently 355 wild tigers in the country.
The effort to complete this survey invested 16,811 days of field staff time and covered 18,928 square kilometres, more than 12 per cent of the country.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal was an implementing partner in the survey led by the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation.
The population increase that was announced by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, was achieved by addressing poaching and illegal wildlife trade, protecting key habitats, and creating wildlife corridors.
“This conservation win is a result of political will and concerted efforts of local communities, youth, enforcement agencies, and conservation partners under the leadership of Government of Nepal,” said Ghana Gurung, Country Director of WWF Nepal.
A target, known as Tx2, of doubling the world’s wild tiger population by 2022 (the next Chinese year of the tiger) was set in 2010 at the tiger summit at St. Petersburg, Russia through the efforts of the Global Tiger Initiative.
The figures became dire in 2010, reaching a record low of 3,200 after reaching about 100,000 a century before.
Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President for Wildlife Conservation for WWF in the US, said Nepal showed it is possible to save a species from the brink of extinction.
“We have been eagerly anticipating this new information because Nepal’s previous survey in 2018 was just shy of doubling the population baseline set in 2009,” she said.
“It is remarkable to see what twelve years of high-level political commitment, dedicated conservation action, partnership with local communities, and collaboration between the government and conservation organizations can accomplish.”
However, Shiv Raj Bhatta, a conservation programme director at WWF Nepal, said while the rising tiger numbers is good news, humans will have to learn to live alongside tigers.
“People are now seeing and encountering tigers everywhere, so cases of tiger-human conflict are increasing,” he said.
He said the tiger population is now almost at a maximum level in Nepal with the current estimates.
“We are a small country.
“This increase is a new challenge for the government.
“Now we need to show tigers and people can coexist”
Nepal and other tiger range countries are meeting next month to begin discussions on the next 12-year commitments for conservation under the Global Tiger Recovery Program.