While the world is celebrating the news of wild tiger population increasing for the first time in 100 years, the data for Vietnam is depressing: the number has shrunk significantly to fewer than five.
Data from the International Union of Conservation for Nature and latest national tiger surveys counted 3,890 wild tigers across the globe, which was up from 3,200 in 2010.
A report by the World Wildlife Fund attributed the population rise to multiple factors including increases in tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, improved surveys and enhanced protection.
Tigers are classified as an endangered species worldwide as poaching and habitat loss threatened their survival.
Dr Rajesh Gopal, Secretary General of the Global Tiger Forum which combined the data with WWF, said that despite the good news, the animal is still under a lot of threats, especially in Southeast Asia, which is at “imminent risk of losing its tigers” due to lack of actions.
According to the new data, Cambodia has lost its tigers while there are only two left in Laos and less than five in Vietnam. Tigers at the age of one year and above were counted.
A Bengal tiger. There are more than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild, making them the most numerous tiger subspecies. Photo credit: Staffan Widstrand/WWF
The decline was astonishing compared to national and global estimates around five years ago, that Vietnam had between 30 and 50 tigers in the wild. The number reported in the early 2000s was more than 100.
Vietnam has been a big consumer of tiger parts and the illegal trade does not seem to be discouraged despite reportedly stronger actions from wildlife protection agencies.
In Vietnam, the animal is trafficked for meat, decorative skin and claws. Tiger bones are illegally traded for making a glue substance that many believe have medicinal properties, despite the lack of scientific evidence.
And while social media has created a new platform for awareness campaigns, some traffickers have taken advantage of the Internet, blatantly advertising tiger parts on Facebook.