Royal Bengal Tigers In Nepal: How Did Population Double In Just Four Years?

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 30, 2013 3:16 PM EDT

tiger
The Royal Bengal tiger population in Nepal has more than doubled in the last 4 years, it was announced yesterday on World Tiger Day. (Photo: Reuters)

The number of Royal Bengal tigers living in Nepal has more than doubled in four years, the Nepalese government announced yesterday.

Royal Bengal tigers a species on the brink of extinction, but now they're a little less so. There are 198 of the tigers in the wild in Nepal, a rise of 64 percent since the last government survey.

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"We have pledged to double this number by 2022," Nepalese conservation minister Tek Bahadur Thapa Ghartitold told reporters yesterday, an announcement which came on World Tiger Day. The year 2022 is the next Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar.

In order to survey the number of Royal Bengal tigers, around 500 cameras were installed in tiger habitats in Nepal. Over 250 conservationists and wildlife experts participated in the tiger census.

Officials and conservation experts point to increased policing of parks as well as increased anti-poaching efforts as the reason behind the population growth of the Royal Bengal tiger in Nepal. Tiger skins and heads have long been in demand in places like Tibet and Nepal, with the affluent class decorating their homes with tiger parts.

"The trade in tiger parts is lucrative and fetches thousands of dollars in illegal markets," said Diwakar Chapagain, the head of the World Wildlife Fund's Nepal unit.

The trading of tiger parts also includes tiger bones for use in Chinese medicines like "Tiger balm," which is used to heal wounds.

The trade is so lucrative that poachers will risk 15 years in prison for the chance to kill and sell a tiger. The average daily income in Nepal is about $1.50, yet a tiger skin can bring in about $7,620 and tiger bones can bring in roughly $6,600 per pound.

While the news is encouraging, there's still a long way to go before Royal Bengal tiger populations reach even a fraction of their former number. There are only 3,200 tigers (of any species) left in the world, compared to 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, with a population loss of 84 percent in the last 30 years alone. 

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