The number of endangered tigers around the world is 40 percent higher than previously thought, according to new data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The group estimates that there are between 3,726 and 5,578 tigers in the wild, up significantly from its last assessment in 2015. The new total is a reflection of both improved monitoring and the impact of conservation efforts.
“Although tigers are still endangered, their populations appear to be stable or increasing,” Jon Paul Rodríguez, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, said in a statement. “We need to learn from these conservation successes, share them with the public, and increase our investment in evidence-based conservation action.”
Since 2014, India has created 14 new tiger reserves covering a combined area of 5,800 square miles, according to a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In 2015, Russia created Bikin National Park, a 4,600-square-mile forest where tigers roam. And in 2017, China established the largest tiger protected area in the world, a 5,600-square-mile park along its borders with Russia and North Korea.
“The species had been in continual decline for about a century until the historic reversal of that trend in 2016,” Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF-US, said in a statement. “Hopefully, the success of these countries will inspire others, particularly in Southeast Asia, to step up efforts to protect wild tigers and secure the species’ future beyond 2022.”
The expansion of farms and cities is continuing to encroach on tiger habitat —the beasts are confined to just 5 percent of their historic range — and poachers are hunting both tigers and their prey. Tigers have seen a precipitous decline in Malaysia and are now likely extinct in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, according to WWF.
In India, where tiger numbers are on the rise, officials are now eyeing a comeback for cheetahs. This August, they will release eight cheetahs from Nambia into Kuno-Palpur National Park, the BBC reports. Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952, due to poaching and habitat loss. Their return will help “stem the degradation and rapid loss of biodiversity,” India’s environment ministry said in statement.