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Tigers are critically endangered throughout all their ranges from Russia to India and so the loss of a single animal in the wild is a setback to conservation efforts. The death of three tigers at the same time is a tragedy.
Yet three Sumatran tigers, a mother with two cubs, were recently found dead in a protected area in Banda Aceh, a province in Indonesia.
The big cats succumbed to infected wounds after probably being injured by snares laid by a poacher, say local conservationists, in the Leuser Ecosystem Area, a sprawling region of forests and peatlands that spans 2.6 million hectares and serves as a protected area for the conservation of Sumatran tigers, also known as Sunda tigers, and other critically endangered species.
It appears almost certain that the three tigers died from snares set especially for them. “This was intended to poach endangered animals for economic gain.”
The tiger has adapted to a great variety of environments, from the Siberian taiga, where nights can be as cold as −40 °C (−40 °F), to the mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans, where the temperatures reach more than 40 °C (104 °F). Tigers haunt the ruins of buildings such as courts and temples and are at home in habitats ranging from dry grassland to rainforest.
Grasslands, mixed grassland-forests, and deciduous rather than densely canopied forests support maximum population densities, as these habitats maintain the highest number of prey species.
What exactly is a tiger?
The tiger is one of four species within the “panther genus,” which is a member of the cat family Felidae, that includes cats of all sizes. Panthers include—in descending size order—tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards; all share similar facial structure and are capable of roaring. The most common tiger is the Bengal (shown). Tigers of all sizes and stripes are majestic.
All tigers are in danger of extinction
Over the last century, tiger habitats have fallen by around 95 percent, and there are now fewer than 4,000 tigers alive in the wild, reports the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). Of the nine subspecies of tiger, three are already extinct; and the rest are considered endangered.
The three extinct tigers
The three extinct subspecies of tiger are:
- Bali: Indigenous to western Bali, the Bali tiger has been extinct since the 1940s.
- Caspian: Indigenous to eastern Turkey, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus around the Caspian Sea through Central Asia to northern Afghanistan, and parts of western China, the Caspian tiger has been extinct since the 1970s.
- Java: Indigenous to the Indonesian island of Java, the Java tiger has been extinct since the 1980s.
The most common cause of the decline of a tiger species/subspecies is us human, whether from hunting or destroying their habitat.
Siberian tigers, also known as Amur and Manchurian tigers, were once found throughout the Russian Far East, northern China and the Korean peninsula, according to the WWF. By the 1940s, hunting had reduced their number to 40, but Russia has since taken steps towards protecting them, and their numbers have risen about 500 as a result.
Challenges to their continued existence include poaching and low prey density (a.k.a., not enough food). At the moment, Siberian tigers represent the largest tiger population on the planet.
Native to Malaysia and the southern tip of Thailand, Malayan tigers were part of the Indochine subspecies until 2004, when DNA samples revealed them to be distinct. Only 250 to 340 are alive in the world today; their greatest danger is logging operations and road development, although they’re also hunted for their body parts and killed by farmers in retaliation for killing livestock.
The Indo-Chinese, or Indochine, tiger (also known as “Corbett’s Tiger,” after the British naturalist, Jim Corbett) is native to Thailand, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Vietnam. They were once in China, but their numbers have died off there.
Between 2000 and 2010, the Indochine tiger population declined by more than 70 percent, and it’s believed there are less than 650 in the world, although some sources put that number closer to 350. It’s difficult to get an exact number of Indo-Chinese tigers because they live in remote, hilly, and mountainous forests and tend to be solitary in nature.
Of all tiger subspecies, the South China tiger may be at the greatest risk of extinction. The WWF estimates there are just 30 to 80 South China tigers left in the world, all of which are in captivity.
Indigenous solely to Sumatra, an island in Indonesia, the Sumatran tiger population is down to around 400. The biggest threats to Sumatran tigers are hunting for commercial gain and habitat destruction.
Fun fact: the Sumatran is the smallest tiger in terms of size, and scientists believe it evolved to be smaller because of its isolated island habitat (a process known as “insular dwarfism“). It’s also one of the 14 beautiful animals that could disappear in your lifetime.
The Bengal tiger, which is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh, is indigenous to both countries as well as Nepal and Bhutan and is the only tiger subspecies that has enjoyed a population renaissance, thanks to the creation of tiger reserves in India. Today, the WWF estimates there are about 2,500 Bengal tigers in the wild.
The greatest threat to the Bengal’s continued existence is poaching and habitat destruction. Turns out tigers are only one of 14 species you probably had no idea were endangered.
Just over a century ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Today, fewer than 3,900 remain.
The tiger is classified into nine subspecies, three of which (Javan, Caspian, and Bali) are extinct. A fourth, the South-China subspecies, is most likely extinct in the wild, with no signs of its existence in the last decade. The existing subspecies are Bengal, Indochinese, Sumatran, Siberian, and Malayan.
Tigers are globally listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The Malayan and Sumatran sub-species are listed as “Critically Endangered.”
Wild tigers are hunted to meet the demands of the $20 billion a year illegal wildlife market. Tiger parts are consumed for traditional medicinal purposes across Asia, with a heavy demand in China.
Wild tigers are persecuted when villagers take retaliatory measures to protect their livestock and communities.
Tiger habitat is increasingly under threat from agricultural developments, especially monocultures like palm oil plantations.
Tiger prey, like deer and wild pigs, continue to be overhunted, forcing tigers to attack livestock to feed themselves and their cubs, thus fueling human-tiger conflict.
Tiger has been protected under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1 July 1975 which means commercial international trade in tiger is prohibited.
At the Tiger Summit held in St Petersburg, Russia in November 2010, the 13 tiger range countries adopted a Global Tiger Recovery Program. The goal is to effectively double the number of wild Tigers by 2022 through actions to:
The future of tiger range depends upon the Asian governments creating effective tiger landscapes by conserving large areas of suitable habitat.
Within these landscapes, the most urgent need is to first secure the source sites—protected areas with viable tiger populations—where most of the global tiger population is now clustered, and many of which are currently too threatened to deliver their potential as the demographic sources for species recovery.
Many conservation organizations are also actively working with range countries in Asia to address the most serious threats to tigers, which include direct killing, depletion of prey, and habitat loss and fragmentation.
What is WWF doing to reduce threats to tigers
in the wild?
Tigers are ‘flagship’ species for their habitats — that is,charismatic representatives of the biodiversity within the complex ecosystems they inhabit.
Because these animalsneed a lot of space to survive, their conservation will help
maintain biological diversity and ecological integrity overextensive areas and so help many other species.
WWF has been working to conserve tigers for over fourdecades. In 2002, WWF developed a new and far-reaching
strategy in partnership with other conservationists andauthorities.
The cornerstone of this Tiger Conservation
Programme is a landscape-based approach to conservation supported by a strong programme to address illegal trade wherever it occurs.
Within these key landscapes, WWF and its partners work to reduce or remove threats to tigers in the wild by• restoring habitat,
and securing a wilderness landscape • strengthening anti-poaching efforts • mitigating human-tiger conflicts
Endangered Bengal tiger cub born at Nicaragua zoo
The tiger, which was born on Saturday,
is the fourth of its kind to be born at the National Zoo in Masaya,
some 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of the capital Managua.
The four-day-old baby, who does not yet have a name, is “being fed with a special milk for cats,” Sacasa said.
“She is very sweet,” he said.
“We’re taking care of her so that she survives—this is a difficult period for her because
she did not get any colostrum for her natural defenses,
” Sacasa explained, referring to the early nutrient-dense milk mammals produce right after birth.
The cub’s mother Dalila had given birth to a female white tiger cub—called Nieve, or snow—in December,
but that baby died of respiratory problems only two weeks later,
despite the special care given by the zoo.
Nicaragua’s National Zoo has two other female tigers that have also given birth.
Sacasa said the births give him hope the zoo can be a kind of “genetic center” in protecting the species.