Asia-Pacific

'A commitment fulfilled': India celebrates major rise in wild tiger population

A Royal Bengal tiger in its enclosure in Bhopal, India. Source: EPA

Conservation efforts in India have seen a 33 per cent increase in the country's wild tiger population.

India's wild tiger population has increased by 33 per cent over the past four years, according to the country's National Tiger Conservation Authority.

A new census found there are 2,967 tigers in the wild across India, up from 2,226 four years ago.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the efforts, tweeting "it was decided to work towards doubling the tiger population by 2022, but India achieved this 4 years in advance!"

India's tiger population accounts for roughly 75 per cent of the global population. 

A number of government initiatives including a ban on hunting and awareness in villages are said to be behind the increase of the population.

Dr Matt Hayward, Associate Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Newcastle, told SBS News the rise "really reflects the value the Indian government places on tigers".

A Royal Bengal tiger in its enclosure at the Van Vihar National Park in India.
A Royal Bengal tiger in its enclosure at the Van Vihar National Park in India.
AAP

"I think India has invested lots of money in reducing poaching, and poaching of tiger prey," he said.

"They've invested in the protection, and in the way they've censored tigers."

The tiger assessment surveyed 380,000 square kilometres of land and used the best available science, technology and analytical tools.

Dr Hayward said the methods were "robust".

"They had 36,000 camera traps, analysing data availability of prey, likelihood of poaching - that's a massive task, going through that is phenomenal," he said.

Remaining threats

But Dr Hayward said an increased population may result in more human-tiger conflicts.

He stressed the importance of finding ways to coexist without placing tigers in danger.

"As tigers become more abundant in those tiger sanctuaries, they're going to start moving into the corridor zones, leading to more and more interactions with humans," he said.

Zoo keepers weighing five-week-old tiger cubs at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
Zoo keepers weighing five-week-old tiger cubs at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
TARONGA ZOO/AAP

Dr Hayward said the project warrants expansion and should be implemented on a suite of iconic species around the world.

"These methods can and should be employed for other iconic, charismatic species that can be individually identified, possibly even quolls in Australia," he said.

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