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Tiger

Overview

Wild tiger numbers are at an all-time low. We have lost 97% of wild tigers in just over a century. Tigers may be one of the most revered animals, but they are also vulnerable to extinction. As few as 3,200 exist in the wild today.

  • Status
    Endangered
  • Population
    as few as 3,200
  • Weight
    220 - 660 pounds
  • Length
    4-10 ft.
  • Habitats
    Tropical rainforests, evergreen forests, mangrove swamps, grasslands, savannas, and temperate forests

The largest of all the Asian big cats, tigers rely primarily on sight and sound rather than smell. They typically hunt alone and stalk prey. A tiger can consume up to 88 pounds of meat at one time. On average, tigers give birth to 2-3 cubs every 2-2.5 years. If all the cubs in one litter die, a second litter may be produced within 5 months.

Tigers generally gain independence at two years of age and attain sexual maturity at 3-4 years for females and at 4-5 years for males. Juvenile mortality is high however—about half of all cubs do not survive more than two years. Tigers have been known to reach the age of 26 years in the wild.

Males of the largest subspecies, the Amur (Siberian) tiger, may weigh up to 660 pounds. For males of the smallest subspecies—the Sumatran tiger—upper range is at around 310 pounds. Within each subspecies, males are heavier than females. Tigers are mostly solitary, apart from associations between mother and offspring. Individual tigers have a large territory and the size is determined mostly by the availability of prey. Although individuals do not patrol their territories, they visit over a period of days or weeks and mark their territory with urine and feces.

Across their range, tigers face unrelenting pressure from poaching, retaliatory killings and habitat loss. They are forced to compete for space with dense and often growing human populations.

Lasting Solutions to Save Wildlife

As wildlife crime sweeps through Africa and Asia, WWF joined wildlife advocates, conservation orgnizations and concerned citizens gathered at the first public meeting of President Obama's Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking in Washington D.C

Cater Roberts at US Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking meeting

Why They Matter

  • This big cat is admired and feared in equal parts, by people around the world. If forests are emptied of every last tiger, all that will remain are distant legends and zoo sightings.

  • The tiger has evolved over thousands of years. Currently this big cat is being trapped, skinned and pushed out of its home. Those left in the wild cling to survival, barely, in a few patches of forest scattered across Asia.

  • With just one tiger, we protect around 25,000 acres of forest. To save tigers, we need to protect the forest habitats across Asia where they live. By saving biologically diverse places, we allow tigers to roam and protect the many other endangered species that live there.

  • As a large predator, the tiger plays a key role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. These ecosystems supply both nature and people with fresh water, food, and health– which means by saving the tiger, we are helping people too.

  • Tigers can directly help some of the world’s poorest communities. Where tigers exist, tourists go. And where tourists go, money can be made by communities with few alternatives for income. Tiger conservation projects also help provide alternative livelihoods for rural communities that are not only more sustainable, but can raise income levels too.

Threats

  • Population as few as 3,200
  • Extinction Risk Endangered
    1. EX
      Extinct

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN
      Endangered

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU
      Vulnerable

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Poaching and illegal wildlife trade

Every part of the tiger—from whisker to tail—is traded in illegal wildlife markets. Poaching is the most immediate threat to wild tigers. In relentless demand, their parts are used for traditional medicine, folk remedies, and increasingly as a status symbol among some Asian cultures.

There are usually limited resources for guarding protected areas in the countries where tigers live. Even countries with strong enforcement of tiger protection laws fight a never-ending battle against poaching. In Indochina and China, poaching is so pervasive that thousands of hectares of forests stand empty of tigers.

The impact from the death of a single tiger at the hands of poachers reaches beyond one single loss. If the tiger that was killed was a female with cubs, her cubs will likely die without their mother and the female's potential for future breeding is lost. If a male is killed, his death can result in intensive competition for his territory among surviving males in the population, creating disruption in further breeding by those males.

Habitat loss

Tigers have lost 93% of their historic range. Their habitat has been destroyed, degraded and fragmented by human activities, including the clearing of forests for agriculture and timber trade and development activities such as the building of road networks. Fewer tigers can survive in small, scattered islands of habitat, which lead to a higher risk of inbreeding. These small islands of habitat also make tigers more vulnerable to poaching.

Human Wildlife Conflict

People and tigers increasingly compete for space. The conflict threatens the world’s remaining wild tigers and poses a major problem for communities living in or near tiger forests. As forests shrink and prey gets scarce, tigers are forced to hunt domestic livestock, which many local communities depend on for their livelihood. In retaliation, tigers are killed or captured. “Conflict” tigers are known to end up for sale in black markets. Local community dependence on forests for fuelwood, food and timber also heightens the risk of tiger attacks.

Tiger: Climate Change

Mangrove forest in the Sundarbans.

One of the world’s largest tiger populations is found in the Sundarbans—a large mangrove forest area shared by India and Bangladesh on the northern coast of the Indian Ocean. This area harbors Bengal tigers and protects coastal regions from storm surges and wind damage. However, rising sea levels caused by climate change threaten to wipe out these forests and the last remaining habitat of this tiger population. According to a WWF study, without mitigation efforts, projected sea level rise—nearly a foot by 2070—could destroy nearly the entire Sundarbans tiger habitat.

“Saving tigers is simple. All they need is enough prey, space and protection. The difficult part is securing unswerving long-term commitment from the world to save this species.”

Dr. Barney Long Asian Species Expert

What WWF Is Doing

Installing camera trap in Tesso Nilo national park

Installing a camera trap in Tesso Nilo National Park, Indonesia. Camera traps are everyday cameras, armed with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.

We can save wild tigers. WWF has set a bold, but achievable goal of Tx2: doubling the number of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

Zero poaching

WWF works to enforce zero tolerance for tiger poaching across Asia. We help create dedicated enforcement units in each landscape and install the best new technologies to help local agencies achieve maximum results. We invest in stronger law enforcement by improving the effectiveness of wildlife rangers, training personnel from enforcement agencies and empowering community patrols and enforcement networks.

Protecting and Connecting Tiger Habitat

Tigers need landscapes to thrive, and our work to protect and connect their fragile habitat is based on rigorous scientific analysis. WWF has chosen 12 places to focus its resources based on the best available science. These are areas where densities of prey and tigers are at their highest, and on tiger corridors that link tiger sites within landscapes. Our work includes building local capacity to manage protected areas and coordinating with partners to manage core tiger areas and corridors.

Monitoring Tigers and Their Prey

Tigers

Monitoring tigers and their prey is essential to achieving our goal of doubling wild tiger populations. By employing camera traps, tracking technologies and DNA collected from scat, we scrutinize the progress of tiger populations in order to adapt our strategies and make conservation decisions based on strong science and field experience.

Building Political Will

WWF helps governments across the 13 tiger range countries to respect wild tigers as a valuable asset that can enhance their development agendas. By linking tiger conservation with forest preservation and carbon-sequestration efforts, tiger range nations and their partners can demonstrate their commitment to promoting a healthy environmental and economic future.

Eliminating Tiger Trade

Trade in tiger parts and products are a major threat to wild tiger survival. Together with TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network,  we implement strategies to stop wildlife criminal networks, help governments shut down black markets, and change consumer behavior. We conduct investigations to document tiger trade, catalyze action against it, and train enforcement agencies. We continue to champion transnational wildlife enforcement networks and build strategies to reduce demand for tiger parts and products.

Projects

  • Wildlife Crime Technology Project

    The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in wildlife crime. In December 2012, Google awarded WWF a $5 million Global Impact Award to create an umprella of technology to protect wildlife.

  • 2012 Fuller Symposium: Conservation Crime

    Global leaders shared their insights on the growing crisis of wildlife crime at the 2012 Fuller Symposium. The symposium was held on November 14, 2012 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.

View All Projects

Experts

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