Tigers | WWF-Canada
 
	© Martin HARVEY / WWF

Tigers

Powerful, Majestic Cats

The tiger (Panthera tigris) is one of the world’s most recognizable animals, intimately connected with strength, potency and untamed nature. They are an iconic symbol of nature’s wild places and inspire millions of people across the world every day, from mountain temples in Bhutan to the catwalks of Milan. Yet they are on the brink of extinction. Out of the nine sub-species of tigers, three (Javan, Caspian and Bali) are extinct. Just over a century ago, 100,000 wild tigers roamed across Asia. Today, fewer than 3,900 live in a mere four per cent of their historic range. Much of this decline has occurred in the past decade.  

Tigers inhabit diverse landscapes, from rainforests to grasslands, savannahs to mangrove forests, and high elevation habitats of the Himalayas to the boreal forests of the Russian Far East. The largest tiger population is found in India, which is home to more than half of all remaining wild tigers. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia and Thailand each host several hundred tigers, while only a few are found in China and Myanmar. Tigers are now functionally extinct in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Life in the wild

Tigers live mostly alone and aggressively defend their territories which can range between 15 and 150 sq. km in size depending on the availability of prey.

Tigers kill their prey by concealment, stealth and sudden attack, and can take down animals over twice their size. If the kill is large, the tiger may drag the remains to a thicket and loosely bury it under leaves, then return to it later. A Bengal tiger can eat 21 kg of meat in a single night and needs to kill at least one 55 to 60 kg animal every week to survive. Tigers meet this demand by killing large, hoofed mammals such as deer, wild pigs and wild cattle.

Females give birth to litters of between one and seven cubs. At birth tiger cubs are tiny, blind and helpless; totally dependent on their mothers. They grow quickly though, quadrupling in size with the first month. Cubs cannot hunt until they are 18 months old and remain with their mothers for two to three years, after which they disperse to find their own territory. Tigers are known to live 12 to 15 years in the wild.

Tiger Basics

Latin name: Panthera tigris 
Common name: Tiger 
Status: Endangered 
Population: Approx. 3,900 
Weight: 100–300 kg 
Length: 1.2-3 metres
 
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Why do Tigers Matter?

These beautiful, powerful cats also play an important role in their ecosystems. These ecosystems supply both nature and people with fresh water, food, and room to roam — which means that by protecting tigers, we are helping people too.
  • To safeguard tigers, we need to protect large swaths of forest across Asia where they live. By protecting these biologically diverse places, not only do we allow tigers to roam, but we also preserve the many other endangered species that live there.
  • As top predators in the food chain, tigers help keep their habitats balanced by preying on other animals – mainly herbivores. Too many herbivores would lead to overgrazing and degradation of the ecosystem. 
  • Forest landscapes protected for tigers store more carbon than other forests in the region, helping to mitigate climate change. 
  • Forest landscapes protected for tigers store more carbon than other forests in the region, helping to mitigate climate change.
  • Tiger habitats overlap nine globally important watersheds, which supply water to as many as 830 million people.
  • Tigers can directly help some of the world’s poorest communities. Where tigers exist, tourists go. And where tourists go, money can be made by communities with few alternatives for income. Tiger conservation projects also help provide alternative livelihoods for rural communities that are not only more sustainable, but can raise income levels too.
  • A single well-known tigress in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India, was responsible for revenues of over US$103 million in the first decade of her life, through park fees, lodging, taxes and services fees. She also effectively employed over 3,000 local people according to Travel Operators for Tigers. And her offspring continue her legacy.
  • The social significance of tigers can be seen in cosmologies, faiths and folktales of almost all civilizations in tiger range countries.

Global Action could Tip the Scales

Alarmed by the critical state of tigers, heads of government from 13 tiger range states and authorities from various inter-governmental and leading non-governmental organizations met in Russia in November 2010 to discuss the future of tigers. Known as the Global Tiger Summit, this was the first gathering of world leaders to discuss the fate of any single species other than humans.

During the summit, leaders committed to TX2, an ambitious goal which seeks to not only save tigers but double their numbers in the wild from 3,200 to at least 6,000 by the next Chinese Year of the Tiger, in 2022.

2016, the midway point of TX2, marked the first time in a century that global tiger numbers rose. Owing to the collective action and commitment of governments, local communities and civil society organizations including WWF, the estimated number of tigers worldwide increased from as few as 3,200 in 2010 to around 3,890 in 2016.

Read about all 13 countries where wild tigers are found

 
Tiger on a tree, India
© © Vivek R. Sinha / WWF–Canon

What is WWF Doing?

WWF-Canada has supported tiger conservation projects in Nepal since 2011. Efforts include population monitoring, anti-poaching operations, habitat improvement, awareness-raising campaigns and training for local communities as citizen scientists.

WWF-Canada also supported the roll-out of a cutting-edge tool called Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS) to help range countries achieve the TX2 goal.

Internationally, WWF has on-the-ground presence in almost all the tiger range countries, and has been working to implement national and international tiger population recovery plans, strengthen enforcement networks, protect and connect tiger landscapes and galvanize political will and public support.

TX2
We’re determined to double the number of wild tigers to at least 6,000 by 2022 – the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. To achieve this, we’re focusing on conservation in 12 priority landscapes, including areas in Nepal, India and Russia. At the groundbreaking Global Tiger Summit, which WWF helped to organize in 2010, governments from all 13 tiger range countries committed to this ambitious and visionary species conservation goal and created a global plan for tiger recovery.

Reducing human-animal conflict
We’re improving tiger habitat, finding ways to reduce human-tiger conflict and engaging local communities in conservation and sustainable use of natural resources to build a future where there’s room for both people and tigers.

Tackling poaching and wildlife crime
We’re working to train rangers and develop anti-poaching technology to support local communities fighting tiger poaching. We also work alongside TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to investigate and crack down on the illegal trade in tiger products – and to reduce demand, so that this trade will no longer pose a significant threat to tigers.

Threats

Habitat degradation, fragmentation and loss
Rampant clearing of tiger habitat for agriculture, commercial logging and commodity plantations, in addition to rapid infrastructure development and mining to cater to the needs of Asia’s burgeoning economy have reduced the tiger’s range to a mere four percent of what it was a century ago.

Poaching and illegal trade 
Tigers are a large, charismatic species admired around the world for their power and beauty. Unfortunately, this is also makes them a lucrative target for the $20 billion per year illegal wildlife trade. Every single part of the tiger – from their whiskers to their tail – can be traded and sold on the black market. In relentless demand, their parts are used for traditional medicine and folk remedies across Asia, particularly China where the demand is heaviest.

Human-tiger conflict
Humans and tigers are living in increasing proximity, and it’s fueling human-tiger conflict. Attacks on livestock are increasingly common, particularly in places where tigers’ natural prey is overhunted and therefore less readily available, and attacks on people are also on the rise. In Chitwan National Park in Nepal, eight people are killed by tigers each year, on average. Tigers killed as conflict animals often end up for sale in the black market, creating a link between human-tiger conflict and poaching for the illegal trade in tiger parts. 

Reasons for hope

In Nepal
  • A 2013 survey of wild tigers in Nepal found that tiger numbers had increased by more than 60 per cent since 2009.
  • Nepal celebrated zero poaching of tiger, rhinos and elephants in 2012 and 2013.
In India 
  • Tiger numbers increased by nearly 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015, from 1,706 to 2,226.
In Russia
  • The population of the Amur tiger in Russia has increased to as many as 540 over the last decade, according to new figures from the interim census results released by the Russian government. There are now between 480 and 540 Amur tigers across their existing range, with around 100 of these known to be cubs. In the 1940s, the population of Amur tigers fell to just 40 animals.
In China
  • Re-colonization of habitats by South China Tiger.

Did you know?

  • Tigers are completely blind for the first week of their life. About half do not survive to adulthood.
  • The markings on a tiger’s forehead closely resemble the Chinese character for king, giving tigers a cultural status as a regal animal.
  • Like human fingerprints, no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes.
  • Tigers’ night vision is about six times better than humans.
  • The roar of a Bengal tiger can carry for over 2 km at night.
  • Tigers have been known to reach speeds up to 65 kph. They can leap distances of over 6 m, and jump up to 5 m vertically.
  • Unlike other cats, tigers are great swimmers and can swim up to 6 km. Tigers can tell the age, gender, and reproductive condition of other tigers by subtleties in the smell of urine markings.
  • Only one in ten tiger hunts is successful, so tigers typically go several days without eating before gorging themselves after a triumphant hunt.
  • Tigers do not normally view humans as prey.
  • There are a greater number of tigers in captivity in the US alone than there are wild tigers left on earth.
  • Various tiger subspecies are the national animals of Bangladesh, India, North Korea, South Korea and Malaysia.

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Updated July 27, 2018