Opinion / OP Rana

The tiger's walk into the sunset continues

By OP RANA (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-03 08:15

The tiger's walk into the sunset continues

Seven Manchurian tigers and four African lion cubs play in the nursery at Forest Wildlife World in Qingdao, Shandong province. The playgroup is a little overcrowded after the sudden influx of 11 newborn cubs. The lions tend to spend most of their time resting, while the baby tigers are constantly on the move and even scream occasionally, attracting a great number of visitors.[Photo by Yu Fangping/Asianewsphoto]

The number of tigers across the globe (read Asia) is on the rise for the first time in a century. Tigers in the wild, according to the most recent data, number about 3,890, up from an estimated 3,200 in 2010. The increase, a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature says, can be attributed to improved surveys and strengthened protection of the iconic species in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.

The news certainly calls for celebration, especially if you care for the environment, biodiversity or simply wildlife. Any such celebration, however, would be premature.

The WWF report was issued on April 10. But just four days before that, a report that went almost unnoticed (despite the prominence given to it by The Guardian) said tigers are "functionally extinct" in Cambodia. Conservationists said the last tiger in Cambodia was seen on camera trap in the eastern province of Mondulkiri in 2007. "Today, (however,) there are no longer any breeding populations of tigers left in Cambodia, and they are therefore considered functionally extinct," conservationists said in a statement.

Perhaps the highest increase in the number of tigers was seen in India: about 30 percent in the past four years. Indian authorities now claim the country is home to as many as 2,226 tigers, or almost three-fourths of the global total.

But the number, ever since it was released, has seen the scientific community challenge the claim of the India government. No, environmentalists and conservationists are not challenging the number of tigers in India; instead, they are questioning the rate of increase in the number of tigers.

Conservationists say the number of tigers may have increased from the historical low, but a good deal of that increase can be attributed to better counting methods in countries like India.

In fact, Anurag Danda of the WWF, one of the groups that took part in the tiger census, said: "I'd prefer to say there are 30 percent more known tigers rather than say there is actually an increase in (the number of) tigers. We might not have counted them all earlier."

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