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29 July 2021

Press Release

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Falling numbers in mainland Southeast Asia prompt concern, but rises in India, Nepal and Russia demonstrate conservation success 

Ahead of Global Tiger Day [29 July], WWF says declines in the populations of wild tigers in range states in mainland Southeast Asia suggest these countries will have fewer tigers than they did in 2010 – the year the global goal was set to double the world’s tigers by 2022.  

In 2010 tiger numbers were at an estimated historic low, with as few as 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild. In one of the most ambitious conservation goals ever undertaken for a single species, the thirteen tiger range countries set a target to double wild tiger numbers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. 

Since then, progress has been mixed with advances made in some countries, especially India, Nepal and Russia, but worrying downward trends in mainland Southeast Asia. Over the last 25 years tigers have become extinct in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam and there have been significant declines in Malaysia, Myanmar and to a lesser extent, Thailand.* 

Snaring set by poachers is the greatest threat to tigers in Southeast Asia, along with habitat loss due to infrastructure development, illegal logging and agriculture expansion. Tigers are also under pressure from poaching for the illegal trade in tigers and tiger parts.  

Despite the overall decline of tiger numbers in the region, there are local success stories. Anti-poaching patrols led by Indigenous community members in Malaysia’s Belum-Temengor Forest Complex have contributed to a 94% reduction in active snares since 2017. In Thailand tigers are dispersing from Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary into other protected areas thanks to strong conservation management and connected habitat. 

Becci May, Senior Programme Advisor for Asia at WWF-UK, said: 

“Countries such as India, Nepal and Russia have shown that by putting the right measures in place, the populations of these beautiful big cats can recover. It’s not too late to reverse the decline of tiger numbers in mainland Southeast Asia, but it will require urgent action and political will.  

This isn’t just about saving a single species. Protecting tigers and their habitat can help mitigate climate change, reduce the impact of natural disasters, and provide livelihoods for local communities.” 

WWF is calling for governments in Southeast Asia to endorse a Southeast Asia Tiger Recovery Action Plan at the fourth Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Malaysia in November. This should include an increase to protected area budgets; high-level political oversight for tiger conservation; identifying opportunities for tiger translocations and reintroduction; and addressing the illegal trade of tigers and tiger parts. 

Some of these measures have been adopted with success in other countries. On Global Tiger Day, India will celebrate the approval of 14 sites under the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS) - a conservation tool that sets standards to manage target species and benchmark progress. There are currently 100+ sites registered with CA|TS globally, covering more than 70% of the global tiger population, with sites in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Malaysia, Nepal and Russia. 



*Goodrich, J. et al., 2015. Panthera tigris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015 
*O'Kelly, H.J., et al 2012. Identifying conservation successes, failures and future opportunities; assessing recovery potential of wild ungulates and tigers in eastern Cambodia
*Rasphone, A., et al 2019. Documenting the demise of tiger and leopard, and the status of other carnivores and prey, in Lao PDR's most prized protected area: Nam Et-Phou Louey. Global Ecology and Conservation, 20 
*Suttidate, N. et al., 2021. Habitat connectivity for endangered Indochinese tigers in Thailand. Global Ecology and Conservation 

The latest global wild tiger population estimate was released in 2016, by WWF. The next estimate should be provided in September 2022 at the Global Tiger Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, based on surveys carried out by national governments. 

Tigers used to roam across most of Asia, but now they’re restricted to as little as 5% of their historic range, in just 10 countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand). 

The TX2 goal is a global commitment to double the world's wild tigers by 2022. From a population of perhaps 100,000 a century ago, wild tiger numbers hit an all-time low of as few as 3,200 in 2010. That same year, all 13 tiger range governments came together for the first time at the Tiger Summit where they committed to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. 

Tiger populations are now increasing in some of the countries with the most wild tigers: India, Nepal, Bhutan and Russia. They are also increasing in China. 

There are an estimated 12 million snares on the ground throughout protected areas in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. 

Poaching is also a significant threat. The equivalent to 1,004 whole tigers were seized between 2000-2018 in Southeast Asia, In addition, around 8,000 tigers are estimated to be in captivity in China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam, undermining law enforcement and stimulating demand for tiger products. 

Adopting a tiger through WWF helps support the following work:    

  • Help to secure well-managed protected areas  
  • Advocate for and support the maintenance and restoration of wildlife corridors, helping wild tiger populations to thrive  
  • Collaborate with local communities to help them to protect wildlife and their livelihoods, as they live alongside wildlife   
  • Conduct camera trap surveys to be able to track population trends and guide conservation action   

About WWF  
WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, active in nearly 100 countries. Our supporters – more than five million of them – are helping us to restore nature and to tackle the main causes of nature’s decline, particularly the food system and climate change. We’re fighting to ensure a world with thriving habitats and species, and to change hearts and minds so it becomes unacceptable to overuse our planet’s resources.  

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For wildlife, for people, for nature.   
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