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India’s Tiger Population Grew Almost 60 Percent Since 2008

Could tigers be coming back from the brink? India now counts 2,226 of the big cats

(Theo Allofs/CORBIS)
smithsonian.com

The last decade has not been kind to tigers. Between widespread deforestation, poaching and illegal trade, populations of the largest species of cat are plummeting worldwide, with populations in places like Malaysia estimated in only the low hundreds.

But one country is bucking the tiger depopulation trend—India. A new census shows that India’s tiger population has grown by nearly a third in just four years.

BBC News Asia reports that India’s latest tiger census points to a sharp rise in the country’s count of striped cat. Prakash Javadekar, India’s Environment Minister, told reporters that India’s tiger population is now 2,226. That’s an increase of 520 tigers over a four-year period and, according to Javadekar, India is now home to at least 70 percent of the world’s tigers. Those numbers are especially impressive given the dire picture in 2008, when India could count only 1,411 tigers.

How has India managed to turn its tiger crisis around? Javadekar and scientists point to the country’s aggressive tiger conservation initiatives—and new efforts to modernize and optimize the way India cares for tigers. India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority is attacking the tiger population crisis on all fronts, from stronger laws to international cooperation to more boots on the ground. And, armed with new technology like open-source software that can identify tigers by counting their stripes, conservationists look forward to even more accurate (and growing) counts in the future.

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