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NEW YORK — Today is International Tiger Day, and conservation groups are highlighting efforts to preserve tiger habitat and increase the numbers of this endangered species.
A century ago, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild, but by 2010, that number had dropped to 3,200. That year, a Tiger Summit held in Russia designated July 29 as International Tiger Day and launched “T Times Two,” an international effort to double the tiger population by 2022, which is the next Year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar.
According to Nilanga Jayasinghe, wildlife team manager for Asian species conservation at the World Wildlife Fund, that effort is beginning to pay off.
“We believe there to be just under 4,000 tigers now in the wild,” she said, “so we still have a long ways to go, but we have been able to change that downward trajectory.”
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To aid the effort, in 2016 WWF joined with Discovery Inc. to launch Project CAT (Conserving Acres for Tigers) to protect healthy habitat for tigers in three countries.
Jessica Beatus, group vice president of standards and social good at Discovery, said that program began with a million-acre tiger habitat on the border of India and Bhutan.
“We’re now supporting nearly six million acres of tiger habitat,” she said. “Tigers in our initial site have doubled, and tigers in our other sites are absolutely on the rise.”
Habitat protection efforts include improved anti-poaching measures, tiger population monitoring and measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Jayasinghe said the conservation effort has multiple benefits not only for tigers within the protected areas but for others well beyond.
“We work across a large landscape that may have multiple protected areas and communities living alongside them,” she said, “but also looking at numerous other species that benefit from the conservation actions.”
For International Tiger Day, Discovery is releasing a video about the creation of a bronze sculpture for display in New York City to aid in educating the public about saving tigers.