India's endangered tiger population tops 3,600

India's wild tiger population is estimated to now exceed 3,600, according to new government figures released Saturday, in a vindication of conservation efforts for the endangered species. Tigers once roamed throughout central, eastern and southern Asia, but have lost nearly 95 percent of their historical range in the past century.

India is currently home to 75 percent of the world's tigers, and the country declared its population of the big cats had risen to 3,167 in April after a camera-based survey.

Further analysis of the same survey data by the Wildlife Institute of India found that average tiger numbers were better estimated at 3,682 across the country, the government said in a press release. The numbers reflected "a commendable annual growth rate of 6.1 percent per annum," it said.

"Continued efforts to protect tiger habitats and corridors are crucial for securing the future of India's tigers and their ecosystems for generations to come."

India is believed to have had a tiger population of around 40,000 at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

That fell over subsequent decades to about 3,700 in 2002, then to an all-time low of 1,411 four years later, but numbers have since risen steadily.

Deforestation, poaching and human encroachment on habitats have devastated tiger populations across Asia.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in April that India had been able to increase its numbers thanks to "people's participation" and the country's "culture of conservation."

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