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A tiger walks through long grass © naturepl.com / Francois Savigny / WWF
Tigers make their homes in mostly fragmented forests stretching from India to northeast China and from the Russian Far East to Sumatra, but years of habitat loss can make it hard to spot a tiger in the wild.
The largest of all cat species, this striped feline deserves to be recognised as king of the jungle. Four-inch retractable claws, mighty jaws and muscular legs enable it to bring down prey more than twice its size! With this great power comes great responsibility; as an ultimate apex predator, the tiger is crucial for maintaining balance within ecosystems.
Thanks to a long and coordinated tiger conservation campaign (Tx2), numbers are on the rise for the first time in history! But we still have a long way to go before the global population is back to its peak; in some parts of the world, tigers are a critically endangered species, putting entire ecosystems at risk. WWF cannot stop its crucial conservation work on this species until wild tigers everywhere are protected.
With as few as 3,900 left in the wild, every big cat counts.
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In saving tigers, we also save the biologically rich and diverse landscapes in which they still roam – Asia’s last great rainforests, jungles and wild lands. These forests are home to thousands of other species, people and the food, fresh water and flood protection that local communities need to survive.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, wild tiger numbers have declined by around 95% and they now survive in 40% less of the area they occupied just a decade ago. Although mostly solitary, tigers need a large territory, the size of which is determined mostly by the availability of prey.
Tracking tiger populations and understanding the threats they face is absolutely vital to protecting these magnificent big cats. They face daily hazards from poaching and habitat loss. Every part of the tiger — from its whisker to its tail — is also traded in illegal wildlife markets, feeding a multi-billion dollar criminal network.
Tiger subspecies vary in their size and colour. Males of the largest subspecies, the Amur (Siberian) tiger, can weigh up to 300 kilograms. Males of the smallest subspecies – the Sumatran tiger – are lucky to reach half that size.
Listed as Endangered (IUCN Red List).
Although individual tigers do not patrol their territories, they visit them over a period of days or weeks and mark their domain with urine and faeces.
Females give birth to litters of one to four cubs. Cubs cannot hunt until they are 18 months old and remain with their mothers for two to three years, when they disperse to find their own territory.
The challenges they face
The most immediate threat to wild tigers is poaching. Their body parts are in relentless demand for traditional medicine and are status symbols within some Asian cultures. The resources for guarding protected areas where tigers live are usually limited. Even countries that strongly enforce tiger protection laws fight a never-ending battle against poaching. In Indochina and China, poaching is so pervasive that many forests are now without tigers.
People and tigers increasingly compete for space. The conflict threatens the world’s remaining wild tigers and poses a major problem for communities living in or near them. As forests shrink and prey becomes scarce, tigers are forced to hunt domestic livestock, which many local communities depend on for their livelihoods. In retaliation, tigers are killed or captured. Community dependence on forests for fuel wood, food and timber also heightens the risk of tiger attacks on people. ‘Conflict’ tigers are commonly sold on the black market.
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 roads and other development activities pose serious threats to tiger habitats. 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.
• Symbolically adopt a tiger through WWF and your donation will support WWF’s conservation efforts, including the protection of tigers.
• Don’t buy anything containing tiger parts.
• Try to buy forest-friendly products, like certified paper and wood products, certified sustainable palm oil and sustainable coffee.
• Spread the #doubletigers message: post, tweet, subscribe and share our Tx2 news.
© naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF
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