The tiger may be the most recognizable of the big cats. Bold, black stripes on an orange background easily set it apart from the lions and panthers. No trip to our local zoo is complete without checking out the tigers. Sadly, these beautiful creatures may only exist in zoos within the next decade.
Subspecies Of Tigers
Tigers are the largest of the big cat species. The scientific name for all tigers is Panthera tigris. However, there are 6 existing subspecies of tiger: Bengal, Siberian, Indochinese, Malayan, South China, and Sumatran tigers. Three other subspecies of tiger have gone extinct in the past hundred years: Balinese, Javan, and Caspian tigers.
All remaining species of tiger are considered endangered. The South China and the Malayan tigers are critcally endangered. There have been no sightings of the South China tigers in several years, so that subspecies may already be extinct. It has been predicted that all tigers may become extinct in the wild within the next decade
Why Are Tigers Endangered?
Before the 1900s, tiger populations in the wild were probably over 100,000 animals with 9 subspecies. Now, only 6 subspecies remain and total only 3000 tigers.
Poaching is a large reason why tiger numbers have diminished. In fact, the extinction of the Caspian and the Javan tiger can be directly linked to hunting. Tigers are still being hunted for their fur and other parts of their bodies that are used in traditional medicine.
Tigers are large animals that require a lot of land to roam and hunt. They require tall grasses and vegetation to hide in. Tigers, like all animals, need a good water and food supply. When these are taken away, tigers cannot survive.
Human development and the logging industry have destroyed much of the tiger’s historical habitat. Some research indicates that over 93% of that habitat is now gone. Not only does this take away what tigers need to survive, it has forced tigers to come into more contact with humans. This has led to farmers killing many tigers to protect their livestock.
Tiger Conservation Efforts
Organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund, is supporting projects to save the tigers from extinction. Efforts are being made to protect current tiger habitats and corridors that link them together. These corridors are important. They allow tigers from different DNA lines to mix and produce more viable offspring. Inbreeding in a small population creates weakened offspring that have a lower chance of survival.
The effort to end tiger poaching has taken on a two-fold approach. First, additional wildlife rangers, monitoring tools, and stricter laws help to stop poaching in the first place. Second, if there is no demand for tigers on the black market, there would be no need for poaching. Shutting down the black market tiger trade is another conservation strategy.
- The tiger is the largest cat in the world.
- Tigers live throughout Asia from cold, snowy mountain regions to hot rain forests.
- There are 6 subspecies of tiger thought to still be living.
- Tigers are carnivores.
- Tigers can swim and seem to like the water.
- Tigers can grow up to 11 feet long and over 650 pounds.
- No two tigers have the same stripe pattern.
- A group of tigers is called a “streak” or an “ambush”.
- Tigers hunt alone and at night.
- Tigers can breed with lions and produce what is called tigons or ligers.
Learn More About Tigers
- National Geographic Kids
- All About Wildlife
- Tigers World
- World Wildlife Fund
- Tiger coloring pages
- Learn to draw a tiger
Learn about other endangered species and what is being done to save them.