The world’s tiger population has declined so much, that the tiger has become an endangered species.
According to WWF, over the past 100 years, the world’s tiger population has decreased by 95 per cent and three sub-species have become extinct. Furthermore, in the past 25 years, the tiger population has halved from around 7,000 to about 3,500 - 4,000 tigers left in the world today.
Less than 100 years ago, there were 9 tiger sub-species. Now there’s only 6.
Out of the 3,500 - 4,000 tigers left in the world today, here’s a breakdown of their population by sub-species:
|Indochinese Tiger||1,200 - 1,800|
|Malayan Tiger||600 - 800 in the wild|
|South China Tiger||59|
|Siberian (Amur) Tiger||450 - 500|
|Sumatran Tiger||400 - 500|
Threats to the Tiger
So, where have all the tigers gone? WWF provide us with a pretty good clue:
There are probably more tigers on the shelves of pharmacies and medicine stores than in forests as tigers are widely hunted and every single part of their bodies is dissected for use in traditional Asian medicine. Tiger bones, believed to contain high medicinal properties, are popular on the black market in Asia.
The following threats have been (and still are) responsible for the diminishing population of the tiger:
- Hunting, poaching, and illegal trade - For more than 1,000 years, tigers have been hunted as status symbols, decorative items, souvenirs, and traditional Asian medicines.
- Habitat and prey loss - Human population growth has contracted and fragmented the amount of land available for tigers. Tigers need large territories to survive. Also, tigers’ natural prey has often been hunted to extinction or near extinction by humans.
- Conflict with humans and their livestock - Many farmers shoot tigers that are interfering with their livestock.
Unfortunately, it looks highly likely that the South China Tiger will become extinct. All known living tigers all descend from only 6 tigers, which may not provide enough genetic diversity to maintain a sub-species.
Project Tiger - Saving the Bengal Tiger
On a brighter note, the Bengal tiger population has actually increased since 1972, when Project Tiger was initiated. Project Tiger was created to protect the Bengal tiger species. At the time the project was initiated in 1972, there were only around 1,200 Bengal tigers. In the 1990s, the count had increased to 3,500, but 2008 census has dropped this figure back to 1411.
To learn more about Project Tiger, check out the official Project Tiger website.