Tigers on the brink of extinction

There are less than 3,000 tigers in the wild. Image: Shutterstock

Tigers and humans try to coexist, but will we be able to save this endangered species?

Experts believe the global wild tiger population has fallen to below 3,000, that is less than 3 per cent of what it was 100 years ago. On the endangered species list all subspecies of tigers are considered critically endangered: of the eight original subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 60 years. The Bali tiger became extinct in the 1930s, the Caspian tiger was forced into extinction in the 1970s and the Javan tiger followed in the 1980s.

“Unless we really crack down on illegal trade and poachers, tigers in the wild have very little chance,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, director of the World Wildlife Fund species conservation program in a statement.

The future for this iconic species in its natural habitat is precarious. Tiger range throughout India and Southeast Asia is 40 per cent smaller than in 1951, and today tigers occupy a mere 7 per cent of their historical territory.

This is mostly due to increased habitat destruction, which forces these majestic animals into small, isolated islands of habitation, often surrounded by human activity. This leads to attacks on livestock and domestic animals, which consequently has led to people resorting to killing the wild cats. In addition, poachers continue to poison waterholes or set steel wire snares to kill tigers, selling their skins and body parts for use in traditional medicine. The bones of a tiger, for example, are worth up to $600 dollars per pound and its blood $80 dollars a bottle.

Some tigers, such as the ones in the forests in Nepal, have resorted to roaming the lands only at night to avoid tiger-human interaction. A two-year study that used more than 70 motion-activated cameras near Chitwan National Park showed how these animals managed to coexist with humans. Although Chitwan National Park is home to the greatest number of Nepalese tigers, it is estimated that there are only about 125 tigers living in Chtwan and its surrounding areas. Watch the video here.

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