Tigers are one of the largest terrestrial predators on the planet and the largest big cat in Asia. They can weigh up to 660 pounds and reach 10 feet in length. These beautiful animals are solitary and rarely found together, with the exception of mother and cub relationships. A mother will protect and feed her cubs for the first 2 years of their lives, during which time the cubs are dependant on their mother to survive.
These incredible nocturnal hunters live off of buffalo, wild pigs, and other large mammals and will travel several miles to hunt them. They usually keep within large territories marked with urine, feces, scrapes, and vocalizations. The size of their territory is usually dependant on the availability of prey, and they are rarely a danger to humans. In fact, they tend to avoid humans whenever possible. However, when prey populations are scarce and human settlements encroachs on their territories, they can cause conflict.
In the early 1900s, it was thought that as many as 100,000 tigers existed in the wild across 9 sub-species (1). Today, there are thought to be just over 3,500 tigers left in the wild, occupying a mere 18% of their historical range (2) with 3 of the original sub-species now extinct (1).
Their demise has been widely attributed to habitat destruction and poaching (3). Nearly every part of the tiger from its whiskers to its tail is traded illegally as a result of the relentless demand in Asian markets. Their status in traditional medicine and as status symbols for the middle class has encouraged this growth (4).
Tigers are very susceptible to increased mortality rates as they breed later in life, and the time interval between births is larger than similar species such as leopards and cougars (3).
The majority of the global wild tiger population is now held within 42 'source sites.' It's approximated that 150 tigers are poached each year (5), and while this isn’t enough to push the population to a tipping point on its own, tiger deaths are on the rise from human-tiger conflict, habitat loss, and disease.
If we do not seriously curb the demand for tiger products and bring an end to poaching, it could spell the end for this iconic species.
Project Tiger built to protect and nurture one of these 42 source sites that until now has been relatively unprotected. This operation involves a ranger team, an intelligence team, camera traps, and high tech drones to monitor both tigers and poachers in the area. If we can protect this site well enough the population can grow and these animals can continue to thrive long into the future.
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"The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
- Sir David Attenborough
Every bit of support we get is vital to our work protecting these species and ensuring their long-term survival.
1) Kim, J.H., Clarke, R.V. and Miller, J., 2014. 8 Poaching and tiger populations in Indian reserves. Situational Prevention of Poaching, p.154.
2) Ripple, W.J., Estes, J.A., Beschta, R.L., Wilmers, C.C., Ritchie, E.G., Hebblewhite, M., Berger, J., Elmhagen, B., Letnic, M., Nelson, M.P. and Schmitz, O.J., 2014. Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores. Science, 343(6167), p.1241484.
3) Chapron, G., Miquelle, D.G., Lambert, A., Goodrich, J.M., Legendre, S. and Clobert, J., 2008. The impact on tigers of poaching versus prey depletion. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45(6), pp.1667-1674.
4) Dinerstein, E., Loucks, C., Wikramanayake, E., Ginsberg, J., Sanderson, E., Seidensticker, J., Forrest, J., Bryja, G., Heydlauff, A., Klenzendorf, S. and Leimgruber, P., 2007. The fate of wild tigers. AIBS Bulletin, 57(6), pp.508-514.
5) Verheij, P.M., Foley, K.E. and Engel, K. 2010. Reduced to skin and bones: An analysis of Tiger seizures from 11 Tiger range countries (2000-2010). TRAFFIC International.