The fragile five

Just how many tigers are left in the wild – and where?

With numbers at an all-time low, we look at the five subspecies that WWF is fighting to save: Amur (or Siberian) tiger, Bengal tiger, Indochinese tiger, Malayan tiger, Sumatran tiger.
These remaining subspecies live only in Asia, and all are threatened by poaching and habitat loss.

Sadly, we’ve already lost at least three of the world’s tiger subspecies (the Bali, Javan, and Caspian) – and possibly four, as the South China Tiger is considered to be probably extinct in the wild.

Amur (Siberian) tiger

  • Common name

    Amur (Siberian) Tiger

  • Scientific name

    Panthera tigris altaica

  • Habitat

    Coniferous, scrub oak and birch woodlands. Primarily eastern Russia, with a few in northeastern China

  • Status

    IUCN: Endangered

  • Did you know?

    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.

Amur (Siberian) tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) lying in the snow. / ©: Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon
Amur (Siberian) tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) lying in the snow.
© Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon

Bengal (Indian) tiger

  • Common name

    Bengal (Indian) Tiger

  • Scientific name

    Panthera tigris tigris

  • Habitat

    Dry and wet deciduous forests, grassland and temperate forests, mangrove forests. Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar and Nepal. India is home to the largest population.

  • Status

    IUCN: Endangered

  • Did you know?

    Some Bengal tigers are cream or white in colour instead of orange, due to a recessive gene for this colouration. These ‘white’ tigers are rarely found in the wild.

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) head of 19-month sub-adult male lying down. Bandhavgarh ... / ©: naturepl.com / Andrew Parkinson / WWF-Canon
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) head of 19-month sub-adult male lying down. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India.
© naturepl.com / Andrew Parkinson / WWF-Canon

South China tiger

  • Common name

    South China tiger

  • Scientific name

    Panthera tigris amoyensis

  • Habitat

    Montane sub-tropical evergreen forest. Central and eastern China.

  • Status

    IUCN: Critically Endangered

  • Did you know?

    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.

South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis),  Beijing zoo, China.
 / ©: John Mackinnon / WWF-Canon
South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), Beijing zoo, China.
© John Mackinnon / WWF-Canon

Indochinese tiger

  • Common name

    Indochinese tiger

  • Scientific name

    Panthera tigris corbetti

  • Habitat

    Remote forests in hilly to mountainous terrain, much of which lies along the borders between countries. Widely dispersed throughout six countries: Thailand, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

  • Status

    IUCN: Endangered

  • Did you know?

    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.

Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is only found in the Greater Mekong region of ... / ©: Kabir Backie / WWF Greater Mekong
Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is only found in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. 14 March 2009.
© Kabir Backie / WWF Greater Mekong

Malayan tiger

  • Common name

    Malayan tiger

  • Scientific name

    Panthera tigris jacksoni

  • Habitat

    Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. Southern tip of Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia

  • Status

    IUCN: Endangered

  • Did you know?

    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.

Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), Malayan Peninsula and southern tip of Thailand. / ©: WWF-Malaysia / Mikaail Kavanagh
Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), Malayan Peninsula and southern tip of Thailand.
© WWF-Malaysia / Mikaail Kavanagh

Sumatran tiger

  • Common name

    Sumatran tiger

  • Scientific name

    Panthera tigris sumatrae

  • Habitat

    Montane forests, the remaining blocks of the island's lowland forest, peat swamps, and freshwater swamp forests. Exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

  • Status

    IUCN: Critically Endangered

  • Did you know?

    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.

Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrea). / ©: David Lawson / WWF-UK
Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrea).
© David Lawson / WWF-UK