Nepal nearly triples their wild tiger population

Two young wild tigers running along riverside in Bardia National Park, Nepal
©Shutterstock/ Paco Como

At the heart of many traditional cultures across Asia lies the tiger. A symbol of strength and power, this big cat is revered among communities. But twelve years ago, the future of this cultural icon was uncertain as populations in the region hit a historic low.

Nepal, for instance, had a wild tiger population of approximately 121 individuals in 2009 — the best known estimate at the time — and it was in decline. Determined to restore their country’s roar, Nepal joined the global commitment known as TX2 to double their wild tiger population by 2022.

No conservation goal that audacious had been set before and their 12-year journey would require bold conservation efforts.

Now as we celebrate this very special Global Tiger Day — in the Lunar Year of the Tiger — we are very excited to report back that Nepal has nearly tripled its wild tiger population to 355 individuals!

This incredible achievement was made possible by a government that set policies for their recovery and by communities that want tigers to thrive. It is also a testament to the power of global partnerships, of which you are a part. With the help of our donors in Canada, WWF-Canada has supported tiger conservation projects in Nepal since 2013.

The journey to TX2

Tiger in the grass, Bardia National Park
©Shutterstock/ Paco-Como-WWF-International

Living with one of the world’s most captivating yet powerful carnivores is no easy matter for people living within tiger landscapes. Among the many interventions needed to double wild tigers, partnering with local communities was essential because increasing tiger numbers can make the delicate coexistence of people and tigers more challenging.

To help reduce the economic impact felt by communities, compensation schemes have been put in place to replace livestock killed by tigers. Communities also directly benefit from preserving this globally important species with the income generated from tiger tourism, which has helped drive community development across the country. To keep people safe, reduce conflict and safeguard the future of tigers, Nepal will continue to design and implement people-centred tiger conservation measures.

Tiger habitat is decreasing across Asia, and the situation is no different in Nepal. But in 2020, tigers were spotted at record-breaking altitudes not once, but twice. These exciting discoveries have given Nepal’s conservation community hope that, with continued research and support, the increasing tiger population will push the boundaries of their previously known range.

Homestay, in the background, Birsana Yogi is carrying a jar on her head.
© Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF-US

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 protected areas patrolling units and community-based anti-poaching units, less tigers and rhinos are being killed— proof that protecting tigers helps protect other species too.

Last year, Nepal received the TX2 Award and Conservation Excellence Award for their progress in tiger conservation. The awards recognized the doubling of tigers in Bardia National Park and the successful recovery of the Khata Forest Conservation Area, a critical wildlife corridor between Nepal and India that is now thriving.

Nepal has proven that with political will and the right conservation measures, it is possible to achieve ambitious goals like TX2. Progress, however, remains fragile. As we look toward the future of tiger conservation, we will need robust strategies focused on human-tiger coexistence and expanding their natural habitat.

From Nepal to Canada, together we can ensure the future of this iconic big cat.

Learn more about tigers and how what WWF-Canada is doing here.

A tiger photographed with a camera trap in the Khata biological corridor, Nepal.
© Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF-US