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Tiger

Facts

After a century of decline, tiger numbers are on the rise. At least 3,890 tigers remain in the wild, but much more work is needed to protect this species that’s still vulnerable to extinction.

  • Status
    Endangered
  • Population
    Around 3,890
  • Scientific Name
    Panthera tigris
  • Weight
    220–660 pounds
  • Length
    6–10 feet
  • Habitats
    Tropical rainforests, evergreen forests, temperate forests, mangrove swamps, grasslands and savannas

Map data provided by IUCN

The largest of all the Asian big cats, tigers rely primarily on sight and sound rather than smell for hunting. 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 two to four cubs every two years. If all the cubs in one litter die, a second litter may be produced within five months.

Tigers generally gain independence at two years of age and attain sexual maturity at age three or four for females and at four or five 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 up to 20 years of age 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. Individuals mark their domain with urine, feces, rakes, scrapes and vocalizing.

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

WWF's Matt Erke on landscape management in Nepal's most precious valley

Matt Erke works on landscape management projects that restore forests, engage and benefit communities, and protect ecosystems critical for biodiversity in the Himalayas.
insidetrack erke winter2017

Why They Matter

  • This big cat is both admired and feared 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 in a few patches of forest scattered across Asia.

  • 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 preserve the many other endangered species that live there. In order to protect just one tiger, we have to conserve around 25,000 acres of forest.

  • 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 that by saving tigers, 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 Around 3,890
  • 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

Poaching is the most immediate threat to wild tigers. Every part of the tiger—from whisker to tail—is traded in illegal wildlife markets. In relentless demand, their parts are used for traditional medicine, folk remedies and, increasingly, as status symbols 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, which is now often orchestrated by transnational crime syndicates that rake in significant profits from wildlife crime. In Indochina and China, poaching is so pervasive that thousands of forest acres stand empty of tigers.

The impact from the death of a single tiger at the hands of poachers reaches beyond one single loss. If a female tiger with cubs is killed, her cubs will most 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, leading to potential injury and death.

Habitat loss

Tigers have lost 93% of their historical range. Their habitat has been destroyed, degraded and fragmented by human activities. The clearing of forests for agriculture and timber, as well as the building of road networks and other development activities, pose serious threats to tiger habitats. Tigers need wide swaths of habitat for their survival since they are very territorial. Fewer tigers can survive in small, scattered islands of habitat, which leads to a higher risk of inbreeding and makes tigers more vulnerable to poaching as they venture beyond protected areas to establish their own territories.

Human Wildlife Conflict

People and tigers increasingly compete for space. As forests shrink and prey gets scarce, tigers are forced to disperse beyond protected areas in search of their own territories. This takes them into human-dominated areas that lie between habitat fragments, where they hunt domestic livestock that 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 heightens the risk of tiger attacks on people.

Effects of Climate Change

Tiger: Climate Change

Mangrove forest in the Sundarbans.

One of the world’s largest, and most uniquely-adapted, 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. These mangrove forests harbor a variety of species, including tigers, and protect 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—about a foot by 2070—could destroy nearly the entire Sundarbans tiger habitat.

Captive Tigers

There are an estimated 5,000 tigers living in captivity in the United States; more than all wild tiger populations across Asia. Almost 95 percent of captive tigers are privately owned, often by people not trained to care for them. Many of these individual owners and non-accredited zoos offer photo opportunities or “selfies” with tigers. These photo opportunities create demand for a constant supply of tiger cubs, and tigers who are too large or unsafe to sit in for these photos become a liability. While most of these animals are bred in the United States and not taken from the wild, the lack of regulation around this large population of animals leaves them susceptible to the illegal tiger trade.

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. In 2010, the 13 tiger range countries committed to TX2—to double wild tiger numbers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger. WWF is driving TX2 forward.

Zero poaching

WWF works to enforce zero tolerance for tiger poaching across Asia. We help build the capacity of enforcement units in each landscape and install the best new technologies to assist local agencies in achieving maximum results. We invest in stronger law enforcement by improving the effectiveness of wildlife rangers, training personnel from enforcement agencies on tools such as SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool), and empowering community patrols and enforcement networks.

tiger logo

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 places to focus its resources based on the best available science. These areas are where densities of prey and tigers are at their highest. The locations encompass 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

Camera trap image of Sumatran tiger cub, Riau, Indonesia

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 (droppings), 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 works with governments across the 13 tiger range countries to maintain momentum around the conservation of tigers, which is 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 is 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 the 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

  • Transforming the global rubber market

    Forests in Asia, home to elephants, tigers and other endangered species—are often cleared to make room for growing rubber trees. They are among the most threatened forests in the world. That’s why WWF has set an ambitious goal of transforming the global rubber market.

  • Wildlife Crime Technology Project

    Over four and a half years, the Google.org-funded Wildlife Crime Technology Project (WCTP) provided WWF a platform to innovate and test a number of innovative technologies, many of which have the potential to change the course of the global fight against wildlife crime. 

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Experts

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