Deeply rooted at the heart of many traditional cultures across Asia is the tiger. A symbol of strength and power, this iconic big cat is revered among communities, but 12 years ago the future of this cultural icon was uncertain with populations at a historic low.
In 2009 Nepal had a wild tiger population of approximately 121 individuals (best known tiger population estimate at the time) and tiger populations were decreasing. Determined to restore Nepal’s roar, the country joined the global commitment to doubling their wild population, known as TX2, by 2022. No conservation goal had been set like this before and their 12 year journey would require bold conservation efforts.
We’ve reached 2022, it’s the Year of the Tiger and Nepal has successfully doubled its wild tiger population! An achievement made possible because of a government that set in place policies and action, and a community that wants tigers to thrive. WWF is today delighted to congratulate Nepal for successfully doubling its tiger population to an estimate of 355 individuals - an increase of more than 190 per cent since 2009. It’s an incredible achievement and testament to the conservation efforts of the government, partners and local communities over the last 12 years.
The journey to TX2
Among the many interventions needed to double wild tigers, one of the key elements of success was to partner with communities who live in tiger landscapes. Increasing tiger numbers increases challenges of coexistence between people and tigers. To help reduce the impact felt by communities, compensation schemes have been put in place to replace livestock killed by tigers; support has been provided to reduce community’s reliance on resources such as firewood which is collected inside national parks, and income generated from tiger tourism has helped drive community development across the country. Nepal continues to design and implement people centred tiger conservation measures to reduce conflict; but the question of how can people and tigers coexist remains a critical challenge to resolve, now more than ever, in order to keep people safe, and secure the progress in increasing tiger populations.
Tiger habitat is decreasing across Asia and in Nepal the situation is no different with threats such as infrastructure development reducing and disconnecting the tiger’s range. But, in 2020 Nepal broke their high-altitude tiger sighting record not once, but twice, proving their increasing tiger population is pushing the boundaries of their previously known range. Excitement capsulated Nepal’s conservation community as one of these high-altitude tiger sightings was in Ilam at ~3165m and an incredible 250km east of Nepal’s previously known tiger range. These discoveries are exciting and an insight into potential future range expansion with the help of more research and conservation support.
Other successes include the country’s efforts to tackle poaching which was once the greatest threat to tigers in Nepal. Thanks to groups such as the protected areas patrolling units and Community-based anti poaching units since 2011 the country achieved zero poaching of rhinos. This is a great example of how protecting tigers protects other species, rhino numbers are increasing in Nepal thanks to tiger conservation efforts.
Last year the country received the TX2 Award and Conservation Excellence Award for their progress in tiger conservation. The awards highlighted the doubling of tigers in Bardia National Park and the successful recovery of the Khata Forest Conservation Area, a wildlife corridor between Nepal and India that is now thriving.
Nepal has proven that with political will and the right conservation measures, TX2 is possible. But the work isn’t over and progress remains fragile. Nepal is evidence as to why we need robust and measurable goals focusing on living with tigers and range expansion in the next Global Tiger Recovery Programme 2022-2034 in order to ensure the future of this iconic big cat.