At the turn of the 20th century, there was an estimated global tiger population of around 100,000; based on data from 2006/07, there are only between 4,300 and 5,300 tigers remaining – although a WWF article this month states there may now be as few as 3,200. Of what were the eight tiger species, only four – the Bangal, Ussuri, Sumatran and Indo-Chinese – are surviving today; there have been no confirmed reports of the South China tiger in the wild. The Bali tiger became extinct in the 1940s, the Caspian tiger in the 1970s and the Javan tiger in the 1980s.
The key reasons for the appalling decline of this remarkable big cat are simple and, sadly, all too familiar: an unceasing and lucrative illegal trade in tiger parts and pelts for Chinese “medicine” plus the destruction of tiger habitats as human communities continue to expand and spread.
The Independent article Mortal combat: Can India’s tigers win the fight for survival? describes how India is locked in a complicated battle to save this magnificent big cat.
The WWF article referred to above, mentions a recent study highlighting the need to redress the balance of tiger conservation investment to focus on the protection of the last remaining core or potential core breeding sites. Michael Baltzer, leader of WWF’s tiger programme said, “The situation for the wild tiger is very serious now and we can expect to lose the tiger throughout much of its range before the next Year of the Tiger in 2022 if we do not urgently step up action to protect the wild tiger.”
It seems that if the population trend continues, tigers could disappear from the wild in the next 10 years.