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Nepal's tiger population doubles in just nine years

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Wildlife officials in Nepal have announced that the wild tiger population in Nepal has doubled since 2009 following conversation efforts to reverse the decline in numbers of the species.

Through footprint analysis, camera traps, and the use of statistical models, scientists report that there are now an estimated 235 wild Bengal tigers in the landlocked Asian country. The survey covers five of Nepal’s national parks, including the densely populated Terai region, an area which was home to very few tigers before 2010.

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According to the survey by Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and several conservation groups including the Zoological Society of London and Panthera, the Bengal tiger population in Nepal has increased by nearly 20% in the last four years alone.

In 2014, there were approximately 198 tigers in the country. Five years prior to this, there were only approximately 120 tigers roaming in the wild.

Nepal has been commended by wildlife officials for its use of modern tracking technologies in addition to on-the-ground patrolling, community participation in anti-poaching initiatives, and for its conservation of prey species. Additionally, the government has been praised for employing a task force dedicated to policing wildlife crime.

The surge in tiger population numbers makes Nepal the first of thirteen countries to reach the "Tx2" target agreed at the 2010 international summit in St Petersburg. The goal, to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, was determined by the governments of all 13 tiger range countries including India, Vietnam, and China.

Despite Nepal’s achievement in meeting the Tx2 goal, the number of tigers is still disturbingly small compared to what it once was, and the increase has not been observed in all parts of the country. Chitwan National Park, which is the most recognised reserve in Nepal, has seen a decline in numbers due to devastating flooding which affected the region in 2017.

The threat from poachers also remains, as does habitat fragmentation. This frequently forces the big cats into smaller territories where many of them are naturally killed in territorial fights. In the last five years, 33 tigers have died this way in Nepal.

It is hoped that other tiger range countries will be inspired to increase their conservation efforts further following Nepal's success.

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