Current estimates put wild tiger numbers to be as low as 3,200. This number is derived partly from recent comprehensive estimates available from India, which supports nearly 43% of wild tigers in Asia.
Recent advances in science, coupled with modern technologies are helping biologists across Asia’s forests to derive a more realistic estimate of existing tiger populations. Individual identification of tigers from photographs using remote cameras as well as scat genetics, and rapid occupancy surveys in large landscapes have provided us with more reliable estimates of tiger numbers.
It is impossible to say exactly how many tigers there are in the wild because counting tigers is a notoriously difficult task. Tigers are wide-ranging, solitary, secretive animals that live mainly in Asia’s most remote and inaccessible areas. It takes enormous effort, skill and expertise to survey tigers and is very expensive to do properly.
But while experts do not have exact numbers, they have good data for some areas and some data for others, hence the estimated figures.
Tigers are found in 13 countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. They are known as tiger range states or tiger range countries.
Again, it is difficult to give exact numbers of wild tigers in each range state because of the varying level of knowledge and data available.
In some countries such as India, Nepal and Russia, tiger population census has been undertaken systematically for many years and there is, therefore, a good, precise understanding of fluctuations in numbers, trends and causes of change.
In other countries – Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam – we have very limited knowledge of the wild tiger population.
Therefore the numbers below are ballpark figures on the possible average estimations of tiger numbers by regions based on the best understanding of our experts.
No, only adult breeding female and male tigers are taken into consideration when estimating tiger numbers.
The mortality rate of tiger cubs is extremely high and only when they cross 2 years of age their chances of survival increase. Hence, population estimates for tigers are always based on adult breeding female and males.
Exact numbers are unclear especially on the Bangladesh side of the Sunderbans.
The total for India is about 1400. The number in Nepal is 120, which is a relatively accurate figure.
There are probably no more than 30 tigers each in Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. The majority of tigers in Greater Mekong are found in Thailand (at least 200-300) and Myanmar. The tiger population status in Myanmar is far from clear.
Majority of the tigers are found on the Russian side of the border. Populations in China probably do not exceed 30.
There has been no systematic tiger census here.
This is the official government figure.
Efforts must focus on assessing population numbers more intensively and regularly if we are to reach the goal of doubling the wild tiger population by 2022.
During 2010 there will be new tiger estimates as new studies come in from several of the tiger range countries.
If no action is taken to stop the poaching and illegal hunting, and to enhance habitat protection, it is possible tiger populations in much of its range will drop so low that we may well reach a point of no return for wild tigers for many places in Asia before the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.