India's Tigers Are Doing So Well, Cubs May Be Given to Other Countries

One of the world's iconic endangered species has seen a 30 percent increase in population over the past four years.

(Photo: Kevin Schafer/Getty Images)

Jan 20, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

After watching tiger numbers decline for nearly a century, India has reason to celebrate: The country’s population of wild big cats has jumped 30 percent over the past four years.

That’s according to the latest numbers out of the country’s tiger conservation survey, which counted 2,226 tigers in 2014, as compared with 1,706 in 2011, environment minister Prakash Javadekar announced Tuesday.

“While the tiger population is falling in the world, it is rising in India,” Javadekar said in a statement. “That is a huge success story.”

India boasts 70 percent of the world’s tigers; the success of its population is crucial to the animals' survival. In an effort to boost numbers worldwide, Javadekar even offered up India’s baby tigers to other countries struggling to halt the species’ decline.

With a population estimated at around 100,000 at the turn of the 19th century, the iconic cats have become a symbol of the struggles endangered species around the world face. Tigers in India dwindled to an all-time low of 1,411 in 2008—mostly owing to habitat loss and poaching, spurring fears the animals could soon be extinct.

Worldwide, only 3,200 tigers remain in the wild.

The recent increases in India’s tigers have been attributed to better management of the more than 40 tiger reserves around the country and renewed efforts to curb the trade in tiger skins and body parts. India has also set aside more habitat for the animals—sometimes even relocating whole villages in the process.

Tiger deaths are up in many of India’s preserves, but that could be a good thing.

Instead of being killed by poachers, the tigers are dying naturally, showing that some of the country’s reserves are reaching their ecological carrying capacity for the animals, according to Sanjay Gubbi, a program coordinator for Panthera, India’s big cat conservation organization.

“India’s outstanding result demonstrates that tigers can recover and thrive, even in densely populated countries with a focus on economic growth—as long as there is political will and the commitment to get results,” Barney Long, World Wildlife Fund director of species conservation, said in a statement.