It’s the Year of the Tiger, and a new population assessment offers some hope for the endangered species.
An estimated 3,726 to 5,578 tigers currently live in the wild worldwide — up 40% from 2015, according to a new tiger assessment from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
But much of the increase is because of improvements in monitoring the animals.
“A fairly significant chunk of that 40% increase is explained by the fact that we’re better at counting them, that many governments in particular have really sort of moved heaven and earth to do massive scale surveys,” Luke Hunter, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) big cat program, told NPR.
The WCS is a nonprofit that has worked in roughly 60 countries across the world to save wildlife and wild places.
Besides better counting methods, Hunter also attributes the higher tiger numbers to an increase in conservation efforts by governments in the countries where they live.
Tigers are still considered endangered and remain on the IUCN’s Red List, which assesses endangered species.
Tigers continue to decline in many parts of the world and have lost an enormous amount of their range because of poaching, habitat loss and other human-driven factors.
Tigers are considered highly valuable within the illegal wildlife trade, which has become a massive, global industry, according to Hunter.
Although tigers represent just one of many endangered species, efforts to conserve them can benefit the areas and people within these communities, he says.
“When you succeed in saving tigers or conserving tigers, you are conserving very large wilderness landscapes, with a huge host of biodiversity but also a whole bunch of benefits to the human communities that live in and around those landscapes,” he said.
Hunter said he believes these types of assessments show that conservation interventions can work and tigers can start to recover.
“Expanding and connecting protected areas, ensuring they are effectively managed, and working with local communities living in and around tiger habitats, are critical to protect the species,” the IUCN said in a statement.