Tigers are the largest species of cat and one of the most iconic animals on the planet. There may have been over 100,000 tigers roaming this planet about a century ago.
But by 2010, we had lost over 95% of the world’s wild tiger population to rampant poaching and habitat loss. As few as 3,200 of them were left.
An ambitious and visionary species conservation goal was set by the governments of the 13 tiger range countries: to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 – the next Chinese year of the tiger.
This is the Tx2 goal.
We are WWF’s global tiger programme, driving Tx2 forward.
Why are tigers important?
Tigers are one of the world’s most iconic species. Being part of our planet’s natural heritage, they have great cultural and historical significance. Yet they are more than just a magnificent animal – they are also crucial for the ecosystems in which they live. As top predators of the food chain, tigers keep populations of prey species in check, which in turn maintains the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. Balanced ecosystems are not only important for wildlife, but for people too – both locally, nationally and globally. People rely on forests, whether it is directly for their livelihoods or indirectly for food and products used in our daily lives. As the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent, natural forests are becoming increasingly important; providing fresh water, clean air and regulating the climate to limit extreme weather, such as droughts and storms.
Tigers not only protect the forest by maintaining ecological integrity, but also by bringing the highest levels of protection and investment to an area. Tigers are an “umbrella species” – meaning their conservation also conserves many other species in the same area. They are long-ranging and require vast amounts of habitat to survive; an adult male’s home range varies from 150 km2 – 1000 km2. Large areas of intact forest therefore must be preserved for tiger conservation. Due to high demand from the illegal wildlife trade, tigers also bring robust enforcement against poaching and habitat encroachment, as well as systematic biological monitoring.
By protecting tigers, we are protecting forests – something which ultimately benefits us all.
Why double tiger numbers, not ‘save’?
Despite conservation efforts since the 1970s, wild tiger populations did not stop declining.
Tiger range governments came together for the first time and decided that business-as-usual approaches were not working. All 13 tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.
Rather than focusing on “saving” tigers at a site or country level, Tx2 uses a strategic, long-term approach – working across entire landscapes and encouraging trans-boundary collaboration. This involves increasing protection where the tigers are currently, maintaining wildlife corridors and connectivity between areas and then boosting resources and protection for where tigers can be in the future, when their numbers have increased.
Doubling wild tigers is possible with full commitment from the tiger range countries. World tiger population is now estimated to be around 3900 according to best available data. For the first time in about a century, we have halted the global decline in wild tiger numbers.
“The Tx2 commitment is the best chance we have at securing the future of wild tigers and their habitats – tigers may not get a second chance in the wild, and neither may we,”
– Mike Baltzer, Leader of Tigers Alive, WWF
Who are the tiger range countries?
Wild tigers are found in a variety of habitats across Asia. There are currently 13 tiger range countries; Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Is Tx2 achievable?
Yes, but only with full commitment from the tiger range countries. The Tiger Summit in 2010 resulted in the Global Tiger Recovery Plan which outlines how each country can reach the Tx2 target. This plan is largely outdated and a new action plan is required with intensified efforts from governments to ensure we reach the goal.
Tigers are cats and therefore breed easily. Given adequate space, prey base and protection, the wild tiger population can increase. Habitats for the increased tiger population have been identified, including 20 Tx2 recovery sites where tiger populations have the potential to recover rapidly if the required conservation investment is received. These sites are key areas of hope for Tx2. Reintroduction may also be possible in some countries.
However, global poaching levels have reached critical levels. Organised criminal gangs are increasingly involved in the illegal wildlife trade driven by a demand for tiger parts. Tiger governments must combat poaching if tigers are to have a future.
6,000+ wild tigers is the global goal set at the Tiger Summit and the goal WWF is dedicated to. It is ambitious; the intention of the Tiger Summit was to set the bar as high as possible to ensure tiger conservation would be given the priority, effort, innovation and investment required. While 6,000+ is the peak of the Tx2 ambitions, reversing the global decline of preceding decades is an enormous and rare conservation success never before achieved in tiger conservation.
Do all tiger countries need to double their tiger numbers?
No, it is a global goal not per individual country. The number of tigers each country can sustain is determined on a case-by-case basis. WWF experts have identified landscapes and sites with optimal conditions for tigers to breed and thrive – this is where WWF is focusing our effort.
What is WWF’s role?
WWF remains a major driving force behind Tx2. We are:
- Driving political momentum to ensure tigers remain a top priority for world leaders
- Professionalising wildlife protection by training rangers, developing conservation standards (CA|TS) and technology (SMART) to achieve Zero Poaching
- Tackling the illegal wildlife trade through our partnership with TRAFFIC
- Focusing efforts in key tiger landscapes
- Ensuring there is space for both tigers and people in the future
What are the successes so far?
- Wild tiger numbers have increased for the first time globally! As of April 2016, there are now estimated to be 3890 tigers in the wild. The increase in numbers is a result of new areas being included in national surveys, improved survey techniques as well as growth in the population from conservation efforts.
- India, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have all carried out comprehensive national tiger surveys, giving a clear picture of their wild tiger populations – a crucial step towards Tx2.
- Exciting camera trap footage from 2014, along with long term studies, have shown that tigers are returning to Northeast China! China is currently undertaking its first national tiger survey.
- Nepal became the first country in the world to achieve Zero Poaching! 2013 saw a full year of zero poaching of not only tigers, but rhinos and elephants too. The country hosted the Towards Zero Poaching Symposium, bringing together delegates from the 13 tiger countries as well as experts from local and international NGO’s and partners to share best practice knowledge in the effort to combat the escalating illegal wildlife trade.
- Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) has been developed and two sites have become accredited; Chitwan National Park in Nepal and Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve in Russia.
- The Ranger Federation of Asia (RFA) was founded in 2013 as a way to connect and improve the working standards of the frontline staff who protect Asia’s wildlife
For more tiger successes, read our top ten tiger conservation highlights of 2015.
For more detailed information on our support of Tx2 and progress towards the goal, read our annual report.
2016: The Critical Halfway Point
This year marks the half way point of Tx2. The six years leading up to it have laid the foundations and 2016 will be pivotal if we are to double wild tigers by 2022. We are at an exciting moment in time where we have managed to halt the rapid decline of tigers. Now we need a monumental push forward to ensure they increase, and continue to increase, up and beyond 2022. We need commitment and dedication from all tiger range governments. We need passion, enthusiasm and unwavering support from the public.
Tigers will never get this chance again, and neither will mankind.
Together, we can double the number of wild tigers – showing the world that there is a place for nature and wildlife in our future.