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Good news on Global Tiger Day

Bhutan’s wild tiger population increases by 27%, following 10-year conservation efforts
Wild tiger in forest in Bhutan

Main image credit: Department of Forest and Par Services, Bhutan (© DoFPS)

Bhutan’s wild tiger population has increased from 103 to 131 individuals, up 27% since the first systematic survey in 2015.

This is the headline finding of the National Tiger Survey Report 2021–2022, launched today (29 July) to mark Global Tiger Day.

Breeding at altitude

The survey covered 85% of the country (32,800 km2) and tigers were photographed at over 15% of the 1,201 camera trap locations, including for the first time in two forest divisions (Dagana and Pemagatshel).

Bhutan has the world record for tiger sightings at the highest elevations, over 4,400m, and this survey confirms that tigers are breeding at a variety of altitudes.

‘This is an extraordinary conservation achievement for Bhutan which now joins a small number of countries that have increased their tiger population over the last decade.

‘As tiger numbers increase, challenges can intensify, yet Bhutan is perfectly positioned to be a global champion for approaches that support coexistence between tigers and people.’

STUART CHAPMAN
Tigers Alive Initiative Leader, WWF

A model for conservation efforts

Major interventions in the last 10 years to help the wild tiger population in the area include increased law enforcement, community-based tiger conservation programmes, habitat improvement and human-wildlife conflict management interventions. 

However, the survey finds that the threat of poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict remain, and the report serves as a call to action for continued efforts to protect tigers and their habitats for future generations.

‘Bhutan’s achievement of increasing the tiger population by 27% since 2015 is a result of strong government commitment and the collective efforts of many, especially local communities. This dedication to protect tigers is inspirational and can serve as a model for conservation elsewhere.

‘Sadly, despite success stories like Bhutan, tigers are still the most threatened big cat species globally, reduced to only around 5% of their historic range. Yet protecting tigers is so important, because when we protect tigers, we protect so much more – tigers play a key role within a healthy ecosystem, and the vast areas of forest they require are a vital carbon store, as well as providing natural resources and ecosystem services that we and wildlife depend on.

‘Halting and reversing nature loss is essential for both people and wildlife to thrive.’

BECCI MAY
Senior programme advisor, Asia Programmes, WWF-UK

Why tigers matter

As the world’s largest cat and an apex predator, tigers play a significant role in the structure and function of the ecosystem on which both humans and wildlife rely.

They are a ‘landscape’ species, needing large areas with diverse habitats, free from human disturbance and rich in prey.

Success or failure means more than securing the future of a single iconic species – it sets a precedent for how we will consider and prioritise the health of nature in global development and in a changing climate going forward.

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