Researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society and other institutions declare that improvements in management of existing protected areas in South Asia could double the number of tigers currently existing in the region.
Specifically, the study examined 157 reserves throughout the Indian subcontinent--comprising India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. It found that 21 of the protected areas meet the criteria needed for large healthy tiger populations. Further, the study noted that these protected areas have the potential to support between 58 percent and 95 percent of the subcontinent's potential tiger capacity, estimated to be between 3,500 to 6,500 tigers.
In the absence of reliable data to produce a reliable estimate, tiger conservationists say that the big cats may currently number between 1,500 to 4,000 animals in the four countries combined.
The small improvements to increase tiger populations cited in the study include better funding, increasing staff support, restoring tiger habitat, and stepping up enforcement activities that focus on preventing the poaching of tigers and their prey.
"We were happy to find that the most important reserves identified in the study already have made tiger conservation a priority," said the lead author Dr. Jai Ranganathan of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.
The tiger is endangered in all of its natural habitats, a range stretching from India down into Southeast Asia as far as the island of Sumatra, and in the Russian Far East, and is listed as endangered according to both international and U.S. law.