As recently as one hundred years ago, more than 100,000 wild tigers (Panthera tigris) roamed the forests and grasslands of Asia. Today, less than 3,200 tigers remain, occupying just 7% of their historic range.
These remaining tiger populations are seriously under pressure due to three main threats:
- Wild tigers are directly hunted both to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market, and due to human-tiger conflict, where local people take retaliatory measures to protect themselves and their livestock.
- Tiger habitat is either being destroyed due to conversion for agricultural purposes and human development, or fragmented, leaving only isolated ‘postage-stamp’ size areas that are not sufficient for the long term survival of wild tigers.
- Tiger prey, like deer and wild pigs, have been overhunted by people either for subsistence or for sale on the black market. Lack of wild prey increases the chance of tigers feeding off of livestock, which in turn fuels human-tiger conflict.
While the future for wild tigers appears bleak and is wrought with challenges, hope still remains. First, despite considerable pressures on wildlife habitats there are still extensive tiger landscapes in Asia that, given adequate protection, can support significant tiger populations. Second, we know how to save tigers and understand what they need to survive, based on more than forty years of dedicated field research throughout the tiger's range. Finally, and most importantly, Panthera recognized that tiger conservation efforts needed to consistently focus on the elimination of the critical threats to the tiger's long-term survival, and that traditional methods and programs had not employed long-term population monitoring techniques able to validate the effectiveness of interventions.
On the basis of these findings, Panthera teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to establish the Tigers Forever strategy. Tigers Forever (TF) is built on decades of tiger research and lessons learned from tiger conservation initiatives across Asia, beginning with the work of Panthera's own Dr. George Schaller in Kanha, India during the 1960s and followed by the influential work of Panthera's CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, in Thailand during the late 1980s. More recently, Dr. Ullas Karanth and Dr. Dale Miquelle (both from WCS and members of Panthera's Cat Advisory Council) have shown how tiger numbers can be increased at sites in India and the Russian Far East, respectively. Panthera’s TF program is based on the work of these conservation scientists and the knowledge they have amassed over many years of work in the field.
Officially launched in July 2006, Tigers Forever aims to increase tiger numbers by 50% in key sites throughout Asia over a ten year period. This strategy for tiger recovery is being tested in long term WCS field sites in India, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Indonesia where there is a high potential to increase numbers of tigers and prey. In each of these settings, resources are focused on the mitigation and elimination of human threats to tiger survival, as well as to monitoring of tiger and prey populations directly. Tigers Forever is mitigating direct killing of tigers and their prey by:
- Enhancing law enforcement patrols through rigorous training to protect tigers, their prey and habitat in and around core areas,
- Using informant networks to investigate and apprehend poachers and others conducting illegal activities, and
- Training of government and other NGO staff to carry out the best scientific methods on the ground.
Tigers Forever is currently being carried out in six countries:
Read Panthera's Tiger Report Card: The State of the Tiger.
Click here to: Meet the tiger