When Five Hundred Tigers Are Not Enough—Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, I wrote about the distressing news of lack of genetic diversity in the wild Amur tiger population. International Tiger Day seemed like a good time to check in on what progress has been made to both sustain and establish wild tiger populations worldwide. In 2010, 13 tiger range countries (TRC) committed to a goal of doubling the world’s tiger population by 2022.

Amur Tiger.

That timeline was an ambitious goal, as highlighted by a report published in PLOS One in November of 2018 (1). The authors assessed the recovery potential of 18 sites identified under the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Tigers alive initiative. The recovery system has several parts: A source site with higher density of tigers that the area around it and has a legal framework that does (or will) protect the tiger population; a recovery site that has a lower density of tigers than the surrounding regions, has the ability to support more tigers but is not as supported as a source site; and a support region that connects a source and recovery site. These different site types all require different levels of management, available resources and legal protections, but they need to be managed in a coordinated way.

Aside from what is needed to manage these recovery sites, there are also other things that need to exist to support recovery of tiger populations. Some of these include support from local populations and governments, as well as environmental requirements such as breeding habitats and prey populations. For 15 of the 18 sites it is the prey population that is the sticking point. Recovery of prey populations is a slow process. The authors concluded that there need to be a commitment to achieving a realistic recovery of tiger populations, even if we miss the 2022 goal.

The fate of the wild tiger is still tenuous. Only time will tell if the interventions that are being implemented can be realized in time.


  1. Abishek, H. et al. (2018) Recovery planning towards doubling wild tigers Panthera tigris numbers: Detailing 18 recovery sites from across the range. PLOS One 13. e0207114. published online
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