Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, Nepal now has an estimated 235 wild tigers in the country, a nearly twofold increase from its baseline of 121 individuals in 2009, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) announced Sunday on the occasion of Nepal's National Conservation Day.
The South Asian nation is now on track to become the first country to double its tiger population as part of WWF's "TX2" goal to double the world's wild tiger population by 2022—the next year of the tiger on the Chinese zodiac.
The news was celebrated by environmentalists including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a WWF-US board member. His foundation has funded tiger conservation in Nepal's Bardia National Park and elsewhere since 2010.
"This significant increase in Nepal's tiger population is proof that when we work together, we can save the planet's wildlife—even species facing extinction," DiCaprio stated in a press release received by EcoWatch. "Nepal has been a leader in efforts to double tigers within its own borders and serves as a model for conservation for all of Asia and the world. I am proud of my foundation's partnership with WWF to support Nepal and local communities in doubling the population of wild tigers."
Due to years of illegal poaching and habitat loss, there are roughly 3,890 of the iconic big cats roaming the planet today, a dramatic decline from the 100,000 about a century ago, according to WWF. As top predators, they are crucial to the ecosystems they inhabit.
"Every tiger counts, for Nepal and for the world," WWF-Nepal's Ghana S. Gurung stated in a press release received by EcoWatch. "While Nepal is but a few tigers away from our goal to double tiger numbers by 2022, it also underscores the continued need to ensure protection, and improved and contiguous habitats for the long-term survival of the species."
Under the TX2 goal set at the 2010 St. Petersburg summit, all 13 tiger range countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam—pledged to increase the number of wild tigers in the world to more than 6,000 by 2022.
"With four more years to go, the TX2 goal of doubling tiger numbers globally can only be achieved if all the tiger range countries step up and commit to a similar level of [Nepal's] excellence," WWF said.
To estimate its tiger population, Nepal conducted surveys between November 2017 and April 2018 by using camera traps and other techniques. The last survey in 2013 counted 198 tigers.
Camera traps were used to survey Nepal's wild tiger numbers.DNPWC/WWF Nepal
Nepal's success story can be attributed to its political commitment towards tiger conservation. For one, Nepal was the first country to achieve global standards in managing tiger conservation areas, an accreditation scheme governed by the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards, according to WWF.
"Protecting tigers is a top priority of the government, and we are thankful for the able support of our partners, enforcement agencies, local communities and the international community for a common purpose," Bishwa Nath Oli, secretary of Nepal's Ministry of Forests and Environment, stated in the press release.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.