The number of tigers in Nepal has increased to almost 200, a survey of the endangered animal has revealed.
The latest figure of 198 is an increase of 63% on the last survey in 2009, and marks a “milestone” in the bid to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, officials in the Himalayan country said.
At an international summit in 2010, heads of government from countries where the tiger is found agreed a “TX2” plan to reverse declines in the big cat’s populations and double its numbers in the wild by 2022.
The Bengal tiger (Pantheras tigris tigris) is the most numerous subspecies of tiger, but there are thought to be fewer than 2,500 left in the wild in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Burma.
The new results came from a joint tiger survey by India and Nepal using the same methodology to assess numbers of tigers which are found in the Terai Arc Landscape stretching 600 miles across 15 protected areas in the two countries.
Nepal’s study, carried out between February and June, covered five protected areas and three wildlife corridors and revealed that in one national park, Bardia, tiger numbers had trebled from around 18 in 2009 to 50 this year.
Numbers had doubled in Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, from eight to 17, and in Chitwan National Park, home to the largest population of tigers in the country, had seen numbers increase from 91 to 120.
Tigers had also staged a comeback in the recently created Banke National Park, with the presence of an estimated four tigers.
Overall numbers in Nepal had risen from 121 in 2009 to this year’s figure of 198, with the estimate for tiger numbers ranging between 163 and 235.
Megh Bahadur Pandey, director general of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, said: “Nepal’s results are an important milestone to reaching the global TX2 goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by the year 2022.
“Tigers are a part of Nepal’s natural wealth and we are committed to ensuring these magnificent wild cats have the prey, protection and space to thrive.”
In Nepal, communities are being involved in anti-poaching efforts, officials are working to to curb the illegal wildlife trade, and hi-tech patrolling methods within protected areas have helped strengthen protection for the species.
Anil Manandhar, country representative of WWF Nepal, said: “While we celebrate the positive results from this tiger survey, WWF calls on the government of Nepal to redouble efforts to protect these conservation gains that could easily be lost as human-tiger conflict increases and illegal wildlife trade empties our forests.
“Tigers are an iconic symbol of wild nature and WWF will continue to work closely with the government, conservation partners and local communities in Nepal to get to TX2.”