Tiger Subspecies

 Amur (Siberian) TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

Panthera tigris altaica - Most often referred to as the Amur or Siberian tiger, this subspecies is also known as the Manchurian, Ussurian, or Northeast China tiger. Today, the Amur tiger population, numbers between 350-400 adults and is found in the Russian Far East, primarily in the Primosky Krai, as well as in southern Khabarovski Krai , where approximately 15-20 individuals live on the Russian border with Northeast China.

In the 1940's, the Amur tiger population hit an all time low, where it was estimated that only 20-30 individuals remained. This was due to widespread hunting for their skins and because cubs were being taken from the wild to supply zoos around the world. However in 1947, Russia outlawed tiger hunting and the population began to recover. Subsequently, the enforcement of strict hunting laws, the establishment of protected areas, and the maintenance of large tracts of tiger habitat outside of the protected zones helped the tiger make a tremendous comeback.

Sadly, Amur tigers continue to face a myriad of threats. Conflicts arise when tigers prey upon livestock and  upon people's dogs. This often leads to local people taking matters into their own hands and illegally killing tigers. Tiger parts – like their skin, bones and meat – also fetch a high price on the illegal wildlife market, providing another incentive to hunt these cats. Tiger habitat is under threat in the Russian Far East due to uncontrolled burning, unsustainable use of forest resources, and wide-scale logging concessions, where the development of roads risk fragmenting the landscape, and where tigers fall victim to logging trucks. The tigers' wild prey like elk, wild boar, and sika deer, have also been overhunted by people, which in this remote area serve as a primary source of protein for humans. If wild prey are managed sustainably, habitat is protected, and people have the tools to take better care of their livestock, conflict situations can be avoided, and people and Amur tigers can share a future together in the Russian Far East.

Bengal TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

Panthera tigris tigris - The Bengal or “Royal Bengal” tiger is found primarily in India, as well as in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, and Nepal. While the number of Bengal tigers is highly disputed, what is agreed upon is that they have drastically decreased since the early 2000's. In addition, from 1997 to 2006, Bengal tigers are thought to have lost more than 50% of their habitat across Asia, with the largest decrease in India.

The Bengal tiger lives in a variety of habitats, including the high-altitude, cold, coniferous Himalayan forests, the humid mangroves of the Sunderbans, the parched hills of the Indian peninsula, the lush wet forests of Northern India, and the arid forests of Rajasthan.

Indochinese TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

Panthera tigris corbetti - The Indochinese tiger, or “Corbett’s tiger,” was named after the British hunter - turned conservationist - Jim Corbett. In the early 1900’s, Corbett, a Colonel in the British army and an avid hunter, was summoned to India on multiple occasions to assist in the hunting of tigers and leopards that were attacking local villagers. While initially involved in the hunting of “problem cats,” Corbett dedicated much of his career and life to raising support for the environmental and animal conservation movements. In honor of his work, the Indochinese tiger was given the scientific name Panthera tigris corbetti.

Today, the Indochinese tiger is found in Myanmar, southern China, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Cambodia. While an estimated 600-650 Indochinese tigers are believed to exist in the wild today, very little is known about this subspecies overall. Currently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that no individual Indochinese tiger population surpasses 250 animals.

Malayan TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

Panthera tigris jacksoni - Living in the southern most region of Thailand and primarily in peninsular Malaysia, the Malayan tiger was recognized as a distinct subspecies of the Indochinese tiger in 2004. While they share many similarities, the Malayan tiger is smaller in stature than the Indochinese tiger. Like the Indochinese tiger, the Malayan tiger’s scientific name, Panthera tigris jacksoni, honors the work of tiger conservationist Peter Jackson – former Chair of the World Conservation Union Cat Specialist Group.

Three subpopulations of Malayan tigers comprise a total of 500 cats currently living in Malaysia. The primary threats facing the Malayan tiger include habitat loss and fragmentation as a result of human-tiger conflicts, agricultural, logging and other human developments, retaliatory killing by farmers for attacks on livestock and wire snares used to target various species of wildlife.

South-China TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

Panthera tigris amoyensis - The South-China tiger, once found in Central and Eastern China, is one of the most critically endangered subspecies of tigers, and many experts believe the subspecies to be ecologically extinct (no effective breeding population in the wild). In the late 1940's, over 4,000 South-China tigers were thought to exist in the wild. In a short thirty-year period, the increasing demand for tiger pelts and negative perceptions about tigers encouraged widespread hunting of the South-China tiger. By the late 1970s, the number of South-China tigers had been reduced to less than 100.

While the South-China tiger was given nominal protection in the 1970's, poaching continued.Tiger bones and other body parts were, and continue to be, highly coveted for the illegal wildlife market and are still used in traditional Chinese medicine - this continues to be a primary threat to all the remaining wild tigers. In China, increasing human populations and the development of agriculture and other monocultures has fragmented and altogether altered any remaining habitat for the South-China tiger.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, no signs of the South-China subspecies have been documented in the wild in the last decade. While close to 50 South-China tigers currently live in Chinese zoos, this subspecies is considered to be functionally extinct. Occasionally, there are reported sightings of South-China tigers in the wild. However, the survival of this subspecies outside of captivity is very unlikely.

Sumatran TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

Panthera tigris sumatrae - The Sumatran tiger is found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the only place in Indonesia where wild tigers remain today. Sumatran tigers are heavily hunted due to human-tiger conflict, and for their body parts, which are sold on the illegal wildlife market and used in traditional Chinese medicine. A study by Shepherd and Magnus in 2004 revealed that a minimum of 50 Sumatran tigers were killed annually from 1998-2002. Approximately 76% of these tigers were killed for trade on the illegal wildlife market and 15% were hunted due to human-tiger conflicts. Tigers will often leave their dense and protected forests in search of food and venture into human settlements and villages, many which surround protected areas completely. Tigers will prey upon livestock, especaily in the absence of wild prey or just for an easy meal if livestock are unattended. Tigers are also hunted or removed from the wild due to human tiger conflict situations. This results in people killing tigers, or, in many cases, removal of that animal from the wild where they spend the rest of their lives in zoos or private holdings, drastically impacting the wild tiger population on the island.

Poaching, human-tiger conflict situations, deforestation and habitat loss due to monocultures like palm oil, coffee and pulp and paper plantations combined pose grave threats to Sumatra’s remaining tigers. Mountainous regions formerly serving as protection for Sumatra’s tigers are now being accessed by road and converted to make room for these growing industries.

Between 400 and 500 Sumatran tigers have been thought to persist on Sumatra. However, just a few months ago, Panthera helped complete a multi-year long initiative of island-wide tiger population surveys, the first island-wide surveys since 1998.

Download Panthera's Sumatran Tiger Report Card

Bali TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Extinct

Panthera tigris balica - The Indonesian island of Bali was once home to the Bali tiger – the smallest and rarest tiger subspecies.

Direct killing of tigers, human encroachment and loss of prey were the main factors that contributed to the extinction of the Bali tiger. It is believed that the last remaining tiger was shot in 1937 in Western Bali. A prolific hunter that killed over 20 Bali tigers in the early 20th Century was documented using steel traps to capture tigers.

As people began to inhabit and develop Bali, the island’s small size (approximate 2,175 square mile area) led to increased human-tiger interactions, hunting of tigers' natural prey and destruction of tiger habitat.

While the Bali tiger is said to have gone extinct in the 1940's, some argue that the tiger became extinct at the end of World War II or in the early 1950s. Traditionally, the Bali tiger is considered to be a subspecies of the primary tiger species, panthera tigris. However, some scientists argue that the Bali tiger is in reality a subspecies of the Javan Tiger, now also extinct.

Caspian TigerIUCN Conservation Status: Extinct

Panthera tigris virgata - Last spotted in 1968 near the Aral River, the Caspian tiger is one of three tiger subspecies that is now extinct. Historically, the Caspian tiger was found west and south of the Caspian Sea in Turkey and Iran and into Central Asia, including parts of the Takla Makan desert in Xinjiang, China, and were sometimes referred to as the Turanian tiger.

The extinction of the Caspian tiger was caused by direct hunting of tigers, habitat loss and loss of wild prey. Today, no Caspian tigers live in captivity. Recent genetic research conducted at Oxford University suggests that the Caspian tiger may be the same subspecies as the Siberian tiger.

Javan TigerIUCN Conservation status: Extinct

Panthera tigris sondaica - The Javan tiger is the most recent subspecies to become extinct as a result of direct hunting, habitat loss and depletion of prey. The majority of this subspecies was eradicated from the island of Java by the 1940's. In 1976, Javan tigers were reported as being seen in the Meru Betiri National Park but were considered to be extinct by around 1980.