Tigers are the largest of all wild cats, and roam 11 countries across Asia. Sign up for updates and to learn how you can help protect tigers.
Tigers are known to be powerful swimmers. They’ve adapted to survive in many different types of habitat, some of which include rivers and flooded mangrove forests.
Tigers cannot purr continually; instead, they can roar thanks to unique modifications of the larynx and an elastic hyoid structure. Tigers are also known to chuff: a non-threatening vocalization possibly used for communication.
Biologists use tigers’ unique stripe patterns to tell each individual apart. We can count the number of tigers in a population and track their specific movements and activities using camera traps.
Tigers will usually have litters of two to five cubs each. After three to five months the cubs are weaned off their mother’s milk and by 18 months to two years of age the tigers become independent from their mother entirely.
The tiger is the most endangered of all the big cats: only about 3,900 still exist in the wild. They’ve seen a 96% decline in their range with 40% only in the last decade.
Tigers are the largest of all the big cats, but also the most endangered. They no longer live in 96 percent of their historic range.
The State of the Tiger
The tiger is one of the most iconic animals on earth, but the largest of the big cats is on the brink of extinction.
As recently as 100 years ago, as many as 100,000 wild tigers roamed across Asia. Today, about 3,900 tigers are left in the wild, occupying a mere four percent of their former range.
This catastrophic population decline is driven by a range of threats, including poaching of tigers and prey for the illegal wildlife trade, overhunting of prey species by local people, and habitat loss and fragmentation.
Tigers are globally listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Two of the remaining sub-species – Malayan and Sumatran – are “Critically Endangered.”
Wild tigers are hunted by poachers to meet demand from the $20 billion a year illegal wildlife trade. Tigers are mercilessly targeted for their body parts, including their skins, bones, teeth and other organs, which are consumed for traditional medicinal purposes across Asia, with particularly heavy demand in China.
Poaching is the number one threat to the tiger’s existence. The prevalence of this threat will have a major bearing on whether or not the species goes extinct in many important landscapes.
Every single tiger organ is sold on the black market today. Tiger parts are used for traditional medicines thought to cure ailments ranging from arthritis to epilepsy, with the greatest demand in China. Tiger skins and other parts are also used for décor, indicating status and wealth, across Asia.
The tiger is increasingly under threat from deforestation for agricultural developments, especially monocultures like palm oil plantations. As a result, the species now remains in only around 4% of its historic range.
Habitat loss and overhunting by humans also depletes populations of tiger prey, like deer and wild pigs, forcing tigers to attack livestock to feed themselves and their cubs. Inevitably, this fuels human-tiger conflict, in which villagers take retaliatory measures to protect their herds and communities.
How Panthera is Helping
In 2006, the world’s premier tiger scientists came together to resolve why tiger numbers were continuing to plummet, despite years of seemingly robust efforts to save them. The group determined that tiger conservation activities were too expansive, suffered from limited financial and human resources, and failed to monitor their effectiveness.
To be effective, the team concluded that a razor-sharp focus on activities that would mitigate the most critical threats to tigers was needed, and thus the Tigers Forever strategy was born.
Today, Panthera’s Tigers Forever program is being carried out across Asia with the goal of increasing tiger numbers at each site by at least 50 percent over a ten-year period.
Panthera is mitigating the most pressing threats facing the species by:
training and outfitting law enforcement patrols and investigative teams to secure protected areas
utilizing informant networks to apprehend poachers
identifying and protecting tiger habitats
using cutting-edge technology to prevent poaching, including hand-held thermal imagers and Panthera’s ‘PoacherCams’
and training government and NGO staff to use the best scientific methods to monitor tiger and prey populations.
Panthera is leading or supporting efforts at key sites across six tiger range countries, including Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, and Thailand.