Global Tiger Day (29 July) marks uneven progress towards the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022

Posted on 29 July 2021
Indian tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) In the water Bangkok Zoo, Thailand
© Martin Harvey / WWF
Wild tiger numbers are declining in all tiger range countries in mainland Southeast Asia, and it is now a near certainty that these countries will have fewer tigers than they did in 2010 - the year the global goal was set to double the world’s wild tigers by 2022. 
 
Over the last 25 years, tigers have become extinct in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam and there have been significant declines in Malaysia, Myanmar, and to a lesser extent, Thailand.
 
“Tiger populations in Southeast Asia have declined at an alarming rate despite global pledges to increase numbers a decade ago. It’s not too late if urgent action is taken to resource and manage the last strongholds of Asia’s iconic big cat,” said Stuart Chapman, lead of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative.
 
“Countries such as India, Nepal and Russia have shown that with the right interventions, tiger populations can recover, and in some cases, double over a relatively short period of time.  With enough connected habitat, prey, and protection from poaching, tigers can make a comeback.”
 
Snaring is the greatest threat to tigers in Southeast Asia. There are an estimated 12 million snares on the ground throughout protected areas in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam - countries where tigers are already locally extinct and a sign of what the rest of the region faces without strong action to stop this crisis.
 
Other major threats include habitat loss due to infrastructure development, illegal logging and agriculture expansion, and the illegal trade in tigers and tiger parts. The equivalent of 1004 whole tigers were seized between 2000-2018 in Southeast Asia, while the 8,000 tigers estimated to be in captivity in China, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam continue to undermine law enforcement and stimulate demand for tiger products.
 
Despite the overall decline of tiger numbers in the region, there are significant success stories to build on. For instance, anti-poaching patrols led by Indigenous community members in Malaysia’s Belum Temengor Forest Complex have contributed to a 94% reduction in active snares since 2017. And in Thailand, tigers are dispersing from Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary into other protected areas thanks to strong protected area management and connectivity.
 
"Collaboration between government, non-governmental organisations, corporate partners and local communities have already reduced poaching in Malaysia’s Belum Temengor Forest Complex. We now need to scale this up across the country and match it with strong political will and investment,” said Sophia Lim, Executive Director and CEO of WWF-Malaysia.
 
“Recovering Southeast Asia’s tigers will also help mitigate climate change, protect water catchment areas, reduce the impact of natural disasters, and provide livelihoods for local communities.”
 
Governments in Southeast Asia have a chance to reverse declining tiger numbers by endorsing a Southeast Asia Tiger Recovery Action Plan that will be tabled at the fourth Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation. This is being hosted by the government of Malaysia in  November. Possible elements of the plan include an increase to protected area budgets including rangers on the ground, and high-level political oversight for tiger conservation through the establishment of National Tiger Committees chaired by the head of government. Other elements of the plan should also include identifying opportunities for tiger translocations and reintroduction, and addressing the illegal trade of tigers and tiger parts.
 
Some of these measures have been adopted with success in other countries. India for instance is applying best practises in the management of tiger conservation areas, with the announcement today of 14 sites approved under the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS) - a conservation tool that sets standards to manage target species and benchmark progress. There are currently 100+ CA|TS sites globally, covering more than 70% of the global tiger population, with sites registered in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Malaysia, Nepal and Russia.                                                 
Indian tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) In the water Bangkok Zoo, Thailand
© Martin Harvey / WWF Enlarge
A wild tiger in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. (Sundarbans, India)
© Niladri Sarkar Enlarge
Indian tigers in water
© Martin Harvey/WWF Enlarge
Panthera tigris sumatrae Sumatran tiger Three young cubs.
Panthera tigris sumatrae Sumatran tiger Three young cubs.
© Alain Compost / WWF Enlarge