The Year That was 2016: Tiger Populations getting back on top


2016 has definitely been a good year for the tigers. Driven largely by conservation successes in India, Russia, and Nepal, the global population of tigers in the wild has shown a significant growth in the past few years. 

Studies estimate that the tiger population is now at 3,890 wild tigers worldwide, compared to 3,200 back in 2010. In the same year, countries around the world created a goal to double the number of tigers by 2022. Six years laters, many countries have appeared to be heading towards their goal, and this is the first time tiger numbers have been increasing globally in more than a hundred years.

“This report shows great momentum, but I would caution people in thinking that we’re on an unchangeable path toward recovery,” says Luke Dollar, who manages the Big Cats Initiative for the National Geographic Society.

Several countries have seen growth in the number of tigers, especially India and Russia. Two-thirds of the world’s tigers live in India, where they’ve increased from 1,706 to 2,226 during the past five years. The country has improved their anti-poaching patrols and offers compensation to farmers or villagers who have experienced injury from tigers, which prevents retaliatory killings. India has also invested in sustainable tourism around tiger reserves.

Malaysia and Indonesia are countries that are overwhelmed by poachers, which degrades tiger habitats. Both countries haven’t conducted a survey of the tiger numbers but there is an estimated amount of 371 tigers in Indonesia and 250 in Malaysia. Trade in tiger products is banned in most of the world, and yet a black market persists. Tiger skin and other parts are high in demand especially in Asia, particularly China. Conservationists have worked with leaders of the Traditional Chinese Medicine to reduce the amount of tiger products in their treatment, which scientists say doesn’t work anyway.

India has shown that these developments can also benefit the people while minimising the impact on tigers. Roads have been routed around reserves, and engineers are designing tunnels and overpasses to help tigers move through the landscape, with less risky interactions with people.

The overall message is cautious hope, even though tiger numbers are significantly growing, we still have a long way to go.