There could be as few as 250 to 340 Malayan tigers in the wild.

THE number of wild tigers in the world has been revised to 3,890, based on the best available data, said WWF and the Global Tiger Forum.

This figure, compiled from International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources data and national tiger surveys, indicates an increase on the 2010 estimate of “as few as 3,200”, and can be attributed to multiple factors, including increases in tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, improved surveys and enhanced protection.

The recent meeting of tiger-range governments at the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation is the latest step in the Global Tiger Initiative process that began with the 2010 Tiger Summit in Russia. Governments at that meeting agreed to the Tx2 goal to double wild tiger numbers by 2022.

A hundred years ago, there were 100,000 wild tigers. By 2010, there were 3,200. In 2010, tiger-range governments agreed to act to double wild tigers by the Year of the Tiger in 2022. This goal is known as Tx2.

Tigers are classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, threatened by poaching and habitat loss. Statistics from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that a minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized between January 2000 and April 2014. In Malaysia, parts from 94 tigers were seized between 2000 and 2012.

For countries to protect their tigers, it is essential that they know their tiger populations and the threats they face.

In 2014, tiger-range governments agreed to announce a new global tiger estimate by this year, based on full, systematic national surveys.

However, not all countries have completed or published these surveys. This new minimum estimate of close to 3,900 tigers is based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species account for tigers, updated for countries where national tiger surveys have taken place since the IUCN assessment.

WWF and the GTF commend tiger-range countries that have updated their population figures since 2010 and encourage Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand to complete and publish their population surveys as soon as possible.

WWF-Malaysia commends the Malaysian government and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks for setting aside funds to carry out the National Tiger Survey, which is of prime importance to the establishment of tiger numbers in the wild.

Latest population estimates indicate that there could be only 250 to 340 Malayan tigers in the wild. The Malayan Tiger is classified as a critically-endangered species under the IUCN Red List.

Recognising the bleak scenario, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry recently announced the need to extend the hunting moratorium for sambar deer (a favourite tiger prey) for another six years. This move will aid tiger-recovery efforts, especially when enforced in full scale.

The government’s efforts in implementing the Central Forest Spine Masterplan to ensure ecological connectivity between large tracts of natural forest and protected areas in Peninsular Malaysia will go a long way in protecting the species and its habitat, particularly if carried out extensively and rapidly. Successful protected areas that contain tigers have robust management plans and corresponding auditing system that enables the evaluation of applied conservation measures using the Conservation Assured/Tigers Standards (CA/TS).

CA/TS sets minimum standards for management of tigers and encourages assessment of these standards in relevant protected areas. It is a voluntary, independent scheme and provides them an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to protecting tigers by being CA/TS standards compliant.

WWF-Malaysia urges governing bodies of protected areas in Malaysia to employ the CA/TS standards for management of protected areas to ensure the viability of tiger populations in protected areas.

NEDA KESHVAR RAVICHANDRAN, Communications manager, Peninsular Malaysia Terrestrial Conservation Programme, WWF-Malaysia