India announces increase in wild tiger population at opening of summit follow-up meeting

Monday, 28 March, 2011
New Delhi, India
India’s wild tiger population has increased by more than 10 % in the past three years, according to figures released today by the Indian government.  The latest survey conducted throughout India found an newly estimated wild tiger population of 1706 individuals, including 1636 tigers (compared with 1411 in 2008) in the areas covered by previous surveys, plus 70 tigers found in areas that were surveyed for the first time.    

India is home to more than half the world’s wild tiger population, which totals as few as 3,000 individuals in 13 range countries in east and southeast Asia.

“India’s population increase is a welcome step in the right direction for wild tigers.” said Azzedine Downes, Executive Vice President, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - “This doesn’t mean that tigers in India, or in other range countries, are less threatened now, but it is definitely an indication that we have the ability to attain the global goal.”

”If we see like for like, it is a 12% increase,” said Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, who released the new “All India Tiger Estimation” report in at the opening of the International Conference on Tiger Conservation in New Delhi.

During the two-day conference, which is the first major follow-up meeting to the global tiger summit convened in St. Petersburg, Russia last November, leaders from all 13 tiger range countries, scientists and conservation organizations will be discussing the challenges, plans and priorities for implementing the Global Tiger Recovery Program, which established the goal of doubling the world’s wild tiger population by 2022. The Conference is being organised by the Indian government in collaboration with the inter-governmental Global Tiger Forum (GTF) and the World Bank's Global Tiger Initiative (GTI).

Authorities have attributed the increase in India’s tiger population to a number of factors including better enforcement and habitat protection, as well as greater awareness. In addition, the methodology used was more scientific and uniform throughout the country. Some of the increase also reflects tigers found in several areas that were excluded from the 2008 survey, including the Sundarbans in the east Indian state of West Bengal and northeast Indian states.

“For the entire nation’s population, we have a more realistic estimate now,” said Vivek Menon, Executive Director, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Regional Director-South Asia, IFAW. “There was an increase in tiger densities even in individual areas covered by our team, including Dudhwa and Valmiki Tiger Reserves in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively, as compared to the last estimate.”

The first day of the international tiger conference also saw the launch of updated National Tiger Action Plans of all 13 tiger range countries. The Plans outline specific actions to secure viable tiger populations in the respective range countries, towards an overall conservation strategy that is both holistic as well as targeted and achievable.

The national plans have been compiled into a publication, Action Tiger, released today by the GTF, IFAW and WTI as an essential reference for stakeholders such as funding agencies, governments and conservation organizations to identify areas requiring focus for appropriate interventions.

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