A Species Under Threat
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the world’s largest cat and is one of the most threatened with extinction. As recently as 100 years ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Today, fewer than 3,200 remain.
Six subspecies of tigers continue to persist, but three have gone extinct in the last 80 years.
The existing subspecies are the Bengal, Indochinese, Sumatran, Amur, Malayan, and the South-China subspecies (although no signs of the South-China subspecies have been recorded in the wild in the last 10 years).
The three extinct subspecies include the Javan (last recorded in the 1970's), Caspian (lost in the 1950's) and the Bali subspecies (lost in the 1930's).
Wild tigers are still found in 13 countries in Asia: India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia (Sumatra), Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, China and Russia. However, they are extinct in 11 countries and no longer live in 93% of their historic range.
Tigers are currently listed as “Endangered” on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The primary threats facing tigers are:
- Wild tigers are being directly hunted to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market. Tiger parts are consumed for traditional medicinal purposes across Asia, with a heavy demand in China. The international illegal trade in wildlife products is a booming business, and is estimated to yield more than $6 billion a year.
- Not only are tigers hunted, but their wild prey, like deer and wild pigs, have been overhunted by people either for subsistence or for sale. A depleted prey base means that tigers will often attack livestock to feed themselves and their cubs, thus fueling human-tiger conflict.
- Due to an increasing human population, humans and tigers are living in close proximity in many places across their range, which far too often results in human-tiger conflict situations. Wild tigers are frequently persecuted when villagers take retaliatory measures to protect their livestock.
- Tigers need intact habitat in order to survive but their habitat is increasingly under threat and either being destroyed or fragmented from agricultural developments, especially large monocultures like palm oil plantations.
How We're Helping
Panthera is working tirelessly to ensure that tigers remain in the wild forever. Panthera's very own CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, was instrumental in creating the world’s largest tiger reserve in Myanmar – the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve, and today, under the directorship of Dr. Joe Smith, Panthera is leading tiger conservation efforts with two major initiatives: Tigers Forever and the Tiger Corridor Initiative. Through these programs, Panthera is working to protect and secure key tiger populations, and ensure connectivity between sites so that tigers can live long into the future.
Panthera’s Tigers Forever program is a cooperative venture with the Wildlife Conservation Society which was initiated in 2006. The program was born out of the need to focus solely on mitigating and eliminating the most urgent threats to tigers which include the direct killing of tigers, depletion of tiger prey, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Tigers Forever is working in key sites across India, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Russia. Panthera is currently expanding the number of sites in which we work, as well as building additonal partnerships to ensure conservation success.
- Securing core areas within tiger sites through effective law enforcement. This is carried out by well-trained park guards to combat poaching and other illegal activities. Boots on the ground is a proven method that deters poachers and helps to truly secure breeding populations of tigers and their prey.
- Monitoring tiger and tiger prey populations. Tigers Forever enacts the best possible science and research techniques that includes a robust monitoring component to measure our impact on the ground, and to ensure that efforts are working.
- Mitigating human-tiger conflict by working with local communities to help improve animal husbandry to reduce depredation by tigers.
- Protecting tiger habitat in a human-dominated landscape, so that tigers will have wild places in order to live long into the future.
Some Key Results to Date:
- Recognition of Tigers Forever sites as the country’s best protected areas in Thailand, Lao PDR, Malaysia, India, and Myanmar
- Establishment of a legal ban on all commercial hunting of wildlife in the state of Johor, Malaysia--one of the two states encompassing our Tigers Forever site in the Endau-Rompin landscape
- Completion of tiger surveys to establish a baseline across northern Sumatra’s Aceh province--a remote and rugged area that had never been surveyed for tigers up until now.
- Increase of ranger stations in the Tigers Forever site in Lao PDR, that led to the confiscation of almost over 800 illegal weapons from local villagers, as well as the issuance of permits to better control hunting in the area.
Read Panthera's Tiger Report Card: The State of the Tiger.