Tigers are locally extinct in 90 percent of their original habitat and their are only 3,500 wild tigers left in the entire world. Thanks to the “Tx2” goal set in 2010 there is hope for doubling the world population Asia’s apex predator.
Tigers are solitary by nature, requiring vast territory to roam, sometime exceeding 11 square miles. They are still being threatened by poaching and habitat loss from logging, agriculture and infrastructure development, new findings show their is enough remaining habitat to double the tiger population by 2022.
These new findings were part of the project to estimate progress toward the “Tx2” goal. Anup Joshi of the University of Minnesota used Global Forest Watch, a satellite-based monitoring system to analyze tree cover loss for the 13 years spanning 2001 to 2014 in 76 Tiger conservation Landscapes (TCLs) in 13 countries where tigers live.
These TCLs account for just 7% of the tigers original habitat and measured between 107 and 104,241 square miles.
Forest loss over the 14 years was less than expected at 7.7 percent, just shy of 31,000 square miles. This means that there is enough wild habitat to support doubling the tiger population by 2022. This is good news considering these native tiger countries are some of the fastest growing in the world, making efforts to curb deforestation difficult.
“We want to appreciate work done by conservation managers and state governments to protect the tiger. The expectedly low loss in priority TCLs is very exciting,” Joshi told IFLScience over email. “On the other hand, we lost habitat that could have supported an estimated 400 tigers. We still have more work to do.” According to the researchers, several actions would help further tiger population gains: restoring corridors in deforested areas, preventing erosion in key spots, implementing smart green infrastructure, and reintroducing recovered tigers.
98 percent of the habitat loss was in just ten of the tracked areas accounting for just over 22,000 square miles of habitat loss. The biggest reduction in forest cover cam from Bakit Tigapuluh and Kerinci Seblat in Sumatra, and Taman Negara in Malaysia.
While this type of satellite study is important, it can not measure or detect poaching, pre availability or under canopy disturbances. Only labor intensive ground surveys can detect and estimate these other factors to doubling the tiger population.