Once upon a time, the world was overrun with tigers. Less than a century ago, as many as 100,000 of the big stripey cats may have prowled through Asia’s mountains and jungles. Today, the wild tiger population hovers below the 4,000 mark.
But there’s a bright spot on the horizon for Earth’s largest cat. As part of the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to double tiger populations by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger, governments of 13 countries are rallying around the animals. Now, as Al Jazeera reports, Nepal is the first country set to meet their target—four years ahead of schedule.
In 2009, Nepal’s tiger numbers were languishing at around 121. According to a national tiger survey held between November 2017 and April 2018, that figure has since risen to a booming 235, and is all but certain to hit 242 in the next four years. The pressure is now on for the other 12 countries with tiger ranges to follow suit, including India, which had 2,226 tigers in 2016, and Russia and Indonesia, which have 433 and 371 tigers respectively.
It’s a big ask. But conservationists—and their Hollywood spokespeople—are feeling optimistic. ”This significant increase in Nepal’s tiger population is proof that when we work together, we can save the planet’s wildlife—even species facing extinction,” said Leonardo DiCaprio, a board member of the association and chairman of his own eponymous charity, which has funded tiger conservation since 2010.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to the World Wildlife Fund as the World Wildlife Foundation.