Tigers are the largest of the big cats, powerful apex predators and striking to look at because of their eye-catching orange and black striped coats.
They are well known and popular animals, but despite this, tigers are endangered and in need of conservation. There are only around 3,500 left in the wild, and they occupy only about 7% of their previous range.
There are six living and three extinct sub-species of tiger; living sub-species include the:
- Sumatran tiger – Panthera tigris sumatrae
- Amur tiger – Panthera tigris altaica
- Bengal tiger – Panthera tigris tigris
- Indochinese tiger – Panthera tigris corbetti
- South China tiger – Panthera tigris amoyensis
- Malayan tiger – Panthera tigris jacksoni
The Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica), Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgate) and Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) are all extinct.
Threats to tigers
The biggest threat to tigers is humans. Unfortunately, the demand for tiger skin and other body parts means poaching and illegal trade is still a big problem. Tiger skin is used for decoration in homes or as a trophy whilst bones and other body parts are used in medicines and as remedies.
Additionally, the ever-growing human population means more and more land is being taken over for things like houses, buildings, roads and agriculture. This reduces the amount of land available to tigers who require big territories to hunt the prey they need to survive. The breaking up of habitats reduces the genetic diversity of tiger populations and also increases tiger/human interactions, which can result in the killing of tigers to avoid conflict and tiger-related deaths.
For Bengal tigers in particular, climate change is also an issue as they inhabit mangrove forests of India and Bangladesh, which are now under threat from rising sea levels.
Tiger conservation is high priority, and in 2010 countries in which tigers still roam free, known collectively as the tiger range countries (TRC), agreed to double the number of wild tigers. The TRC countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam and North-Korea.
Along with stopping poaching and illegal trade, one of the main aims of tiger conservation is habitat protection, which includes managing protected areas as well as ensuring corridors that connect tiger areas together exist. This creates links between the habitats, allowing tigers to roam further. Tracking and monitoring tigers themselves is important also and is carried out by scientists using tracking devices, camera traps and through collection and analysis of droppings.
Raising awareness and keeping the pressure on governments and politicians is essential to ensuring tiger conservation remains a priority, which is why days like International Tiger Day are so important. It came out of the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010 and aims to raise awareness and promote the protection of tigers and their habitats.