Knowsley Safari handout photo of an Amur Tiger after snow fell at the Merseyside attraction. Picture date: Thursday January 29, 2015. Image by Knowsley Safari/PA Wire.

Amur Tiger in the snow at Knowsley Safari Park, Prescot, Merseyside, England. Picture date: Thursday January 29, 2015. Image by Knowsley Safari/PA Wire.

Numbers of rare Amur tigers are on the rise, according to figures from the Russian government.

Interim census results suggest there are now between 480 and 540 Amur tigers across their existing range in Russia’s Far East, where 95% of the endangered big cat’s global population is found, with at least 100 known to be cubs.

Numbers are up from the last census in 2005, which showed there were between 423 and 502 Amur tigers in the region.

Wildlife experts welcomed the increase, which they attributed to the commitment of Russian political leaders to conserving the Amur tiger, tougher anti-poaching rules and the work of rangers and conservationists.

Igor Chestin, head of WWF-Russia said: “I am pleased to see that the number of Amur tigers in Russia has increased in all the key areas where WWF has been working for many years.

“This success is due to the commitment of Russia’s political leadership and the tireless dedication of rangers and conservationists in very difficult conditions.”

The new census covers 150,000 square kilometres (58,000 square miles) of the tiger’s range, and involves around 2,000 specialists, as well as technology such as GPS, satellite navigators and camera traps.

The final results of the census, which has been organised by the Russian government with the support of the Amur Tiger Centre and WWF, are due to be published in October 2015.

WWF said anti-poaching efforts have been key to a rise in tiger numbers, with tougher punishments and the introduction of criminal charges for the illegal hunting, storage and trafficking of endangered animals and their parts.

Mike Baltzer, Leader, WWF Tigers Alive initiative: “The key is strong political support. Where we have it, in countries like Russia and India, we are seeing tremendous results.

“However, in South East Asia, where political support is weaker, we are facing a crisis. These countries stand to lose their tigers if urgent action isn’t taken immediately.”

WWF is urging every tiger country to conduct a census, a measure which is critical to efforts to double global tiger numbers by 2022, the so-called “Tx2″ goal agreed by tiger range nations in 2010, the most recent Year of the Tiger.

Counts are critical in Malaysia, where numbers are thought to have fallen to between 250 and 340 from the previous estimate of 500, as well as in Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, the conservation organisation said.

Figures released earlier this year showed a rise in tiger numbers in India, while census results are expected from Bangladesh and Bhutan later this year, and China is planning to count its tigers this summer. Nepal conducted its last count in 2013.

Amur tiger numbers fell to a low of around 40 in the 1940s but a ban on hunting them and conservation efforts helped bring them back from the brink of extinction.

(Press association)