Threats to Tigers
Within the last century, our world has lost three of the eight tiger subspecies to extinction. The remaining five subspecies are heading towards the same fate, unless action is taken. The historical range of the tiger has shrunk dramatically throughout the years. Today no more than 4,000 tigers live in the wild, sporadically living from India to southeastern China and east Russia to Sumatra.
Tigers are a keystone species, crucial for the integrity of the ecosystems in which they live. By keeping populations of prey species in check, a balance is created between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. In short, when tigers thrive, the whole ecosystem thrives. In turn, the tiger has become a flagship species, which provides protection for the other species in the ecosystem.
Until the 1930s, sport hunting was the main cause of declines in tiger populations. Although trophy hunting persisted as a major threat to tigers up to the early 1970s, the greatest threat between the 1940s and the late 1980s was loss of habitat due to encroachment by a burgeoning human population, logging, and conversion of forests into commercial plantations such as oil palm and pulpwood.
Local people in tiger ranges must be able to see and derive benefits from tiger conservation.
Today, the illegal tiger trade and habitat fragmentation are the leading causes for the decline of the wild tiger population. Tigers are killed to meet the demand for their bones and other parts, which are used for traditional medicines in parts of Asia. Compounding the threat to tigers is a growing conflict between this species and the interests of neighboring communities. Revenge killing of tigers, often by poisoning or electrocution, to protect livestock is on the rise. Over-hunting of the tigers' natural prey is also emerging as a major factor causing declines in tiger populations across their range and is contributing to tigers preying on cattle.