Number of tigers in India plummets from 5,000 to 1,300 in seven years

Tigers driven to edge of extinction by poachers and loss of habitat

The disastrous impact of poaching and the destruction of the natural habitat of one of the planet’s most threatened animals will be made clear tomorrow when the Indian government is told that its remaining tiger population could be as low as 1,300.

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, will be told that drastic action has to be taken against the two forces threatening the big cat’s chance of survival.

“That size of a population is scientifically not viable,” said Valmik Thapar, a tiger expert and member of the National Board of Wildlife, which is due to convene in Delhi for a meeting chaired by Mr Singh. “But in the real world you have to try as hard as you can.”

Along with the polar bear, the tiger symbolises perhaps more than any other large creature the majesty and power of the natural world. At the same time the tawdry story of the tiger’s decline – not just in India but in other countries where it clings on desperately – is a stark indictment of mankind’s apparent inability to preserve the natural habitats on which it depends.

No one knows precisely how many tigers are left in India, home to perhaps 80 per cent of the world’s remaining animals and which, at the turn of the 20th century, was estimated to have up to 100,000 animals. It is believed there were about 5,000 at the start of the decade.

The most recent census, conducted in 2001 and 2002, put the figure at 3,642. But many experts questioned the way in which that count was handled and a new census was carried out by the government-run Wildlife Institute of India using a more scientifically robust method. While the findings will not be formally announced until the end of the year, preliminary results of the new count have put the population at between 1,300 and 1,500.

“The new figures and facts came as no surprise to conservationists, although the government is still recovering from the shock,” said Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, which has several tiger programmes. “In Madhya Pradesh – which is known as the Tiger State – the study has shown a loss of 61 per cent on the figures of the previous tiger census. The state of Maharashtra has shown a loss of 57 per cent.”

She added: “In the past census … many tigers were found outside the tiger reserves. The new study shows virtually no tigers outside the tiger reserves.”

Experts say the reasons for the decline of the tiger are simple. Not enough is being done to halt the continued poaching of the animals, which are highly prized in China and other parts of east Asia for their pelts and body parts. A tiger skin can fetch up to £5,300 while tiger penises – traditionally believed to have near-magical properties – can fetch £14,000 per kilo.

The tiger has suffered from a loss of its habitat as a result of large-scale mining and hydro-power dam projects. The loss of habitat and prey encourages tigers, pure carnivores, to seize domestic livestock which in turn aggravates local farmers. The tiger is the national symbol but, in the past five years, poachers have been killing them at the rate of one a day, campaigners believe.

Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigations Agency, a London-based campaign group, said development projects often resulted in the displacement of communities who are left with a choice of moving to the slums of large cities or into the forests. “Living in the forests brings them into conflict with wildlife and the under-resourced, under-trained, ill-equipped forest department staff,” she said.

Mr Thapar, 55, who has written 15 books about tigers during three decades working with the animals, has said it would now “take a miracle” to save them. He warned of the impact of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, a piece of legislation passed last year and expected to become law in the coming months, which grants some of India’s most impoverished communities the right to own and live in the forests.

The problem, he said, was that all evidence showed humans and tigers could not co-exist. “If you are not going to set aside habitats where there are no humans then you cannot have tigers,” he said.

The decline of the tiger is not isolated to India. In the past century, tiger populations across the world have slumped by 95 per cent and, across a broad chunk of Asia, tigers are now confronting extinction. Indeed, of the nine known sub-species of tiger, three (the Caspian, Javanese and Balinese) are already extinct while another, the South China tiger, is nearing extinction in the wild with perhaps fewer than 30 surviving.

An estimated 4,000 of the South China sub-species – the only one native to central and southern China -roamed the country 50 years ago but its habitat has been dramatically reduced by the country’s rapid economic growth and the sub-species was declared officially extinct in 2003. Just this week, the Chinese authorities banned hunting in a mountainous area of Shaanxi province of north-west China where a young South China tiger was apparently sighted by a farmer. The sighting has generated much excitement among conservationists and a team of experts has been set up to conduct a search.

Ms Wright said that, in India, there may now only be two genetically viable populations of Bengal tiger, as the country’s sub-species is known. Those live in the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttaranchal and the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, which is said to haveinspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book.

There have been the occasional pieces of good news. Last month about 20 tigers were discovered in a mountainous forest range in the western state of Maharashtra from where they were thought to have long disappeared. But among such rare flashes of hope, experts say the evidence of the tiger’s ongoing decline have been all too clear. In February 2005, it was revealed all the tigers in the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan had been killed by poachers. Meanwhile, the size of the continuing trade in illegal tiger parts has been revealed by activists working undercover in places such as Tibet where there is flourishing business.

A senior official in India’s Environment Ministry said tomorrow’s meeting would evaluate progress at implementing recommendations made at the last meeting 18 months ago.

“Everyone is waiting for the [official] tiger report – even the Prime Minister,” the official told the Asian Age newspaper.

“It is only after the report is tabled that we will get the real picture, which we know is not going to be rosy. We know that we have lost large numbers of our big cats.”



Filed under animals, asia, biodiversity, india, nature, wildlife, zoology

59 responses to “Number of tigers in India plummets from 5,000 to 1,300 in seven years

  1. in madhya pradesh the department of Forest is celebrationg VAN DIVAS on the forest ministers bday.

    u can very well understand the vision of the department.

  2. Sab

    WA-OW the population of tigers is decreasing. If they became extinct they could stop the food chain from continuing. Sad!!! they’re so pretty:(
    I love Tigers xox to them:(((

  3. ishita,c

    animal life should b conserved coz they r the beutiful creations of the almighty god!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. ankit

    i want to say that our honourable primeminister has just tried to save his seat due to left and all
    and our prime minister is the best economist
    he doesnt look over the economy of india then why he would look after the wildlife

  5. Amit

    Tigers are one of the nature most creative and beautiful animal. this beaty must be preserved. The tiger poarching should and trade should be illegal and punishable offence world over. selling and possing tiger skin and parts should b declared as an serious offence in tibet and China too.
    Gen -X won’t be able see this creature anymore otherwise.

  6. How many tigers are there in Indonesisa????

  7. pranay bakshi

    TIGERS r tremendous creatures .Decline in there population is an insult of our nation.

  8. Parimal Chavan

    tiger hunters must be severly punished. tigers’ conservation is necessary to save India’s biodiversity. STOP KILLING TIGERS!

  9. Now time is for feeding our politicians mainly Congress leaders to tigers. They have done unforgivable crime. They spent public money for protection and did nothing. They failed in protecting our NATIONAL ANIMAL. We will never forgive them.

  10. hritik nautiyal

    Tiger is our national animal.Poaching or hunting tiger is disrespectful to our country.They are being hunted for their skin and bones.they are sent to Tibet where they are wore in occassions.


  11. Tigers are natural beauty of India . They are our natural beauty . Only a 1300 tigers are left in india . No one wants that every tiger reserve become “sariska” in india . We have to conserve Worlds biggest cat .

  12. akash pandit

    tiger poachers should be killed. tigers are india’s natural beauty, they should be conserved. not even tigers killing other animals should also be stopped.
    indian govt is useless it cannot do anything. i know they’ll wake up when tiger population will be just50-100.
    please wake up

    • Jaganath Jayaprakash

      dude wat u said is absolutely ryt////
      nothing will be done by our govt…
      well why not we try somethin then… i am just a student and if i were earning i wud have surely done a lot more than just blogging and stuff…
      we seriously need to think more seriously about this issue

  13. Jaganath Jayaprakash

    see we all keep telling things but wat we do is NOTHING…. all humans do is killing them and destroying their habitats!!!
    i seriously am lover of animals and tigers in particular…. They are such majesctic, wonderful good looking species and i wish we all do something to help these extraordinary creation of god!!!

    cos if it goes like this then our future generations will never have a chance to even see one and only hear about them…. this is a seriously sad and heart breaking issue.
    i hope we all join hands for the cause of saving TIGERS… u gotta know-“they deserve to live in this planet just as much as humans do”

  14. m.usman

    we should not save tigers. u all are lying

  15. Arturo

    tigers are bad ass.

  16. Twinkle

    Truly… We hav 2 sav tiger……. STOP KILLING THEM… punish al tiger killers………

  17. nikita

    pl save tigers!!! stop killing them… pl!

  18. parul

    tigers – species coming to EXTINCTION
    stop killing them
    save tigers, save environment,save nature

  19. Very useful information. Would like to know that what can we do to save tigers. Poaching,smuggling continues in the world of red tapism.

  20. SaVe OuR TIgers as there only 1411 tigers left in india.
    they are national animal of India….


  21. mohammad sajid

    stop high ways in night which is going from
    wildlife is best way to stoping
    hunting & road accident of tiger and other



  23. plz save the tiger !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in this generation we are not able to see tigers properly there were 40,ooo tigers now only 1400 what about the next generation will we able too see tigers will we?

  24. plz save tigers……..if why?
    than………it is our national animal and it should not xtint

  25. Anonymous

    omg!!!!!!!!!!!! tigers r decreasing

  26. Tighers are beautiful creations of almighty .They are realy beautiful.Please poachers stop killing them.Its my request.

  27. shashank

    Animals a creation of the most powerful person of world GOD, god has created wild animals for maintaing ecologiacal balance not for destroying them. so plz save wild life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Anonymous


  29. Adeeba Shaheen

    Tiger Tiger burning bright,
    will not let you fade out of sight,
    that is my promise
    and for you we will fight………

  30. Anonymous

    They are indians and like our family . Please save them and they will save you.

  31. Anonymous

    deepa swaroop
    October 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm
    when you can’t understand their feelings you even don’t have the right to kill the. SAVE OUR TIGERS.

  32. Anno

    This is disaster!!!!!!!

  33. natasha

    stop killing tigers!!!!!!!!!!!!our future is in our hands

  34. ria

    tigers are ENDANGERED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. plz save tigers……..if why?
    than………it is our national animal and it should not xtint

  36. supritha

    save tiger save forest take action on tiger hunters

  37. Anonymous

    save treasures of our earth…

  38. Deep

    I want 2 know how many tiger in india..?

  39. pravin wadekar

    tiger is our national animal. we must have to rescue this one of the beuty of nature.

  40. Anonymous

    we must see beauty in every creation. then why not in teger too.
    it has beauty and has feelings too like us.we must love them

  41. roshan raman

    We must love tiger but never try to show our love with a kiss.

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