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Tiger numbers almost triple in India’s Valmiki National Park

Roaring success: tiger numbers almost triple in India’s Valmiki National Park

Berlin – Tiger numbers in India’s little known Valmiki National Park have almost tripled. Twenty eight of the big cats now roam across the 900 square kilometre reserve the foothills of the Himalayas – up from just 10 in 2006. "We are delighted that our work in Valmiki is making a measurable contribution to the international goal of doubling the number of tigers in wild by 2022,” says the Chair of German conservation group NABU International, Thomas Tennhardt.

Habitat loss and relentless hunting to supply medicine markets in China and other parts of Asia continue to decimate global tiger populations. Numbers have plummeted from around 100,000 at the turn of the century to a historic low of 3,200 in 2010 – a loss of 97 percent. Tigers have been displaced from 93 percent of their historic range. Numbers held in captivity in China and the USA are more than double that in the wild.

In India are beginning to claw their way back from the brink after the government stepped up protection efforts in recent years. Since 2010, Indian tiger reserves are required to conduct a regular census, the results of which are published in a national report every four years. According to the most recent figures, India now hosts 2226 tigers - about 70 percent of the world’s population and up from 1441 in 2006.

"The survival of wild tigers will depend on our ability to protect them and their habitat effectively against, encroachment, genetic isolation and poaching," said Tennhardt. “That’s exactly what NABU International is striving for in Valmiki.

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Together with neighbouring Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal, Valmiki is part of a contiguous 3,549 square kilometre large tiger conservation unit. But while the reserves across Valmiki’s border with Nepal boast some 255 tigers, Valmiki’s tigers have has struggled to hold on to double figures. Yet the park has great potential to bolster tiger populations in the long-term.

Before Valmiki was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1990 its native flora and fauna had been severely damaged. For decades, commercial hard wood plantations and the invasion of unpalatable exotic plants have progressively pushed back Valmiki’s natural grasslands to just five percent of the park’s area.

“Valmiki’s tiger population is being kept down by a chronic shortage of prey, which in turn due to a lack of suitable grazing," said Dr Barbara Maas, Head of International Conservation at NABU International. "Thousands of local people heavily depend on Valmiki’s forest for firewood. Further pressure on the reserve’s limited grasslands is caused by illegal grazing of livestock.”
“In collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India, the Forestry Department and local villagers our project aims to reverse this damage to allow Valmiki to reach its full potential as a tiger stronghold.”

Cooking stoves that utilize agricultural waste and solar lamps have already reduced wood consumption by 77 percent in some areas. The park’s potential is exciting. We’re looking forward to regenerating more of the parks’ grasslands this year. If we are successful, the tigers will come back. The launch of a new antipoaching initiative this year will ensure they’ll be safe.”


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