SYMPHONY OF NATURE

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tiger Extinction Nearing

As few as 3,200

Wild tiger numbers are at an all-time low. The largest of all the Asian big cats may be on top of the food chain and one of the most culturally important and best-loved animals, but they are also vulnerable to extinction. Tigers are forced to compete for space with dense human populations, face unrelenting pressure from poaching, retaliatory killings and habitat loss across their range.

There is still hope

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, when the next Year of the Tiger is celebrated. We are concentrating our efforts on protecting key landscapes where the big cats have the best chance of surviving and increasing over the long-term. Five decades of conservation experience has shown us that given enough space, prey and protection, tigers can recover.
By saving tigers, we also save the biologically rich and diverse landscapes where they still roam — Asia’s last great rain forests, jungles and wild lands. These forests are home to thousands of other species, people and the food, freshwater and flood protection that local communities need to survive.

The time is right

During the 2010 Year of the Tiger, Russia’s prime minister convened a tiger summit where world leaders endorsed a bold plan to save tigers. All 13 countries where tigers still roam in the wild committed to doubling the number of tigers. WWF is working to ensure those strategies are successfully implemented so that tigers get a strong start on their road to recovery.

Subspecies

Three tiger subspecies - the Bali, Javan, and Caspian - have become extinct in the past 70 years. The six remaining subspecies - Amur, Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, South China, and Sumatran - live only in Asia, and all are threatened by poaching and habitat loss.
  • Amur (Siberian) Tiger
    Scientific name: Panthera tigris altaica 
    IUCN Listing: Endangered
    Habitat: Coniferous, scrub oak and birch woodlands
    Location: Primarily eastern Russia, with a few found in northeastern China
    Interesting Fact: In the 1940s the Amur tiger was on the brink of extinction, with no more than 40 tigers remaining in the wild. Thanks to vigorous anti-poaching and other conservation efforts by the Russians with support from many partners, including WWF, the Amur tiger population recovered and has remained stable throughout the last decade.
  • Bengal (Indian) Tiger
    Scientific name: Panthera tigris tigris
    IUCN Listing: Endangered
    Habitat: Dry and wet deciduous forests, grassland and temperate forests, mangrove forests
    Location: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar and Nepal. India is home to the largest population.
    Interesting Fact: Some Bengal tigers are cream or white in color instead of orange, due to a recessive gene for this coloration. These "white" tigers are rarely found in the wild.
  • Indochinese Tiger
    Scientific name: Panthera tigris corbetti
    IUCN Listing: Endangered
    Habitat: Remote forests in hilly to mountainous terrain, much of which lies along the borders between countries
    Location: Widely dispersed throughout six countries: Thailand, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
    Interesting Fact: Access to the areas where Indochinese tigers live is often restricted, and biologists have only recently been granted limited permits for field surveys. As a result, relatively little is known about the status of these tigers in the wild.
  • Malayan Tiger
    Scientific name: Panthera tigris jacksoni
    IUCN Listing: Endangered
    Habitat: Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
    Location: Southern tip of Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia
    Interesting Fact: The Malayan tiger was only identified as being a separate subspecies from the Indochinese tiger in 2004. It is very similar to the Indochinese tiger, but is smaller in size.
  • South China Tiger
    Scientific name: Panthera tigris amoyensis
    IUCN Listing: Critically Endangered
    Habitat: Montane sub-tropical evergreen forest
    Location: Central and eastern China
    Interesting Fact: It is estimated that the South China tiger is functionally extinct. Currently 47 South China tigers live in 18 zoos, all in China. If there are any South China tigers in the wild, these few individuals would be found in southeast China, close to provincial borders.
  • Sumatran Tiger
    Scientific name: Panthera tigris sumatrae
    IUCN Listing: Critically Endangered
    Habitat: Montane forests, the remaining blocks of the island's lowland forest, peat swamps, and freshwater swamp forests
    Location: Exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra
    Interesting Fact: Sumatran tigers are protected by law in Indonesia, with tough provisions for jail time and steep fines. Despite increased efforts in tiger conservation, including law enforcement and anti-poaching capacity, a substantial market remains in Sumatra for tiger parts and products.