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Tiger (Panthera tigris) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Historical tiger population

  • Genetic studies estimate female numbers (Luo et al. 2004)
    • c. 13,350 females, according to DNA analysis

Recent global population

  • Population trend
    • Decreasing (Chundawat, Habib, et al. 2011)
  • Current population size
    • IUCN estimates just under 4,000 individuals in the wild (December 2019)
    • About 2,100-3,200 individuals is the generally accepted estimate of baseline global wild tiger population (Chundawat, Habib, et al. 2011; Goodrich et al. 2015); minimum estimate based on data collected 2009-2014 -- does not take into account population increases since 2014
  • Indochinese tiger (P. t. corbetti)
    • About 250 individuals (Abishek Harihar, personal communication, 2019)
    • Population declining due to habitat loss, poaching, prey base depletion, human-tiger conflict (Chundawat, Habib, et al. 2011)
  • Amur tiger (P. t. altaica)
    • About 450 individuals (Abishek Harihar, personal communication, 2019)
    • Low genetic variability, possibly due to low population numbers in the past (Chundawat, Habib, et al. 2011; Miquelle et al. 2007)
      • Estimated as few as 20-30 tigers in Russia In 1930s (Luo et al. 2006)
  • Sumatran tiger (P. t. sumatrae)
    • About 370 individuals (Abishek Harihar, personal communication, 2019)
  • Bengal tiger (P. t. tigris)
    • Variable estimates
      • About 3,400 individuals (Abishek Harihar, personal communication, 2019)
    • Most Bengal tigers inhabit India (Chundawat, Kahn, et al. 2011)
      • Others in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan
  • Mayalan tiger (P. t. jacksonii)
    • Less than 200 individuals (Abishek Harihar, personal communication, 2019)
  • South China tiger (P. t. amoyensis)
    • No confirmed presence in the wild (Global Tiger Forum 2007)
    • Last sighting in wild: early 1970s (Tilson et al. 1997)

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Species-level listing
  • Subspecies listed separately

CITES Status

Conservation timeline

  • 1966: International tiger studbook created (Müller 2001)
    • Original keeper: Zoologická Zahrada Praha, Czech Republic
    • 1973: Leipzig Zoo became keeper
    • 2000: approximately 7,000 tigers registered with all known ancestors
      • 4,500 Amur; 1,200 Sumatran; 900 Bengal; 300 South China; 100 Indochinese
  • 1973: Indian government launched Project Tiger
  • 1975: International ban on trade in tigers and tiger parts
    • Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES)
  • 1975: Tigers first listed as endangered by IUCN
  • 1986: International tiger symposium, "Tigers of the World"
  • 1988: Tiger Species Survival Master Plan
    • Created by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)
    • Establishes guidelines for management of various subspecies
      • 175 Amur (P.t. altaica)
      • 175 Sumatran (P.t. sumatrae)
      • 75-80 Indochinese (P.t. corbetti)
      • 75-80 Bengal (P.t. tigris) tigers
    • 500-525 "manageable" tiger spaces available in AZA SSP institutions
  • 1987: Global Tiger Survival Plan designed
    • Tiger was first species to have a coordinated international breeding plan
    • Became Tiger Global Animal Survival Plan (GASP) in 1992, later Tiger Global Conservation Strategy (GCS)
  • 1992: Global tiger estimate (wild tigers)
    • Between 4,400 and 7,700 tigers in the wild (Tiger Global Animal Survival Plan 1992)
      • Not enough money allocated to protection of tigers and enforcement of existing laws in all nations with tiger populations
      • GASP meeting recommended management of P.t. tigris by Europe and India; P. t. amoyensis by China, perhaps Japan; and P. t. altaica, P.t. corbetti, and P. t. sumatrae by North American Species Survival Plan according to IUCN/SSP/Tiger
  • 1993: China banned domestic trade in tiger products
    • Tiger-bone wine and other health tonics still popular in China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, United States
    • Tiger skins considered fashionable by middle class in Tibet, easily purchased; Dalai Lama condemned such usage
  • 1994: Indonesian Sumatran Tiger Conservation Strategy
    • Published by the Indonesian government
    • Sparked multinational effort to save Sumatran tiger (Tilson et al. 2007)
  • 1997: "Tigers 2000" international symposium in London (Seidensticker et al. 1999)
  • 2001: Tiger estimate for India (wild tigers)
    • Reported only 3,642 tigers remained in the wild (Chundawat, Khan, et al. 2011)
  • 2006: Global tiger estimate (wild tigers)
    • Population estimate: 3,402-5,140 adult tigers (Chundawat, Habib, et al. 2011)
  • 2007: Estimate of tigers in managed or private care
    • 11,000 tigers estimated in managed or private care (Science 2007)
      • 1,000 in zoological parks world-wide
      • 5,000 with private owners in North America
      • 5,000 in private tiger-breeding centers, mostly in China
        • May fuel market for tiger parts and medicines
  • 2006: Tiger estimate for India (wild tigers)
    • 1,411 tigers (Jhala et al. 2008)
      • Conservation plans must revolve around reducing hunting pressure on large ungulates
  • 2009: Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop
    • Recommended international effort to add specific language for tigers to CITES
    • Recommended non-funding of development projects that affect critical tiger habitat
  • 2010: First International Tiger Conservation Forum, St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Heads of state from all 13 tiger range countries met to finalize Global Tiger Recovery Program
    • 12-year plan to double number of wild tigers by 2022, with a goal of at least 6,000 tigers
    • Adopted St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation
  • 2010: Tiger estimate for India (wild tigers)
    • 1,706 wild tigers estimated in India (Jhala et al. 2011)
      • Data show increase in tiger density but decrease in range
  • 2010: Estimate of tigers in managed or private care
    • 13,000 tigers (Nyhus et al. 2010)
  • 2011: Save the Tiger Fund and Pathera.org form a partnership
    • Working to increase tiger numbers by 50% in 10 years
  • 2013: National Repository of Camera Trap Photographs of Tigers (NRCTPT) (Patil et al. 2013)
    • Established in India
    • Individual tigers identified by stripe patterns
    • Database will help conservation decision-making and anti-poaching efforts
  •  

Threats to Survival

Top threats to tiger survival (from Dinerstein et al. 2006)

  • Low population size
  • Human driven threats
    • Reduced prey availability due to competition with humans
      • Ungulate populations (deer, wild pigs) have been decimated due to over-hunting by local peoples for food or sale (Karanth and Stith, 1999)
      • Depleted prey base keeps tigers out of otherwise suitable habitats (Barber-Meyer 2012)
      • Tiger populations have been able to recover when prey density kept high in some managed habitats in Nepal and India (Karanth and Stith, 1999)
    • Targeted poaching of tiger for export of parts
      • Tiger bone and other parts used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat arthritis and other rheumatic pain
        • Some local trade in tiger parts also known
      • Tiger skins also traded
        • Growing demand in Tibetan region, used to decorate traditional robes (Dinerstein et al. 2006)
      • Reduced demand for parts in recent years, but still widespread (Dinerstein et al. 2006)
        • Significant reduction followed China's 1993 trade ban (Nowell and Xu 2007)
        • More recent discussion in China to reopen limited legal trade in bones from farmed tigers is highly controversial (Dinerstein et al. 2006)
      • Parts of at least 1,425 tigers seized between 2000-2012 from 12 of the 13 tiger range countries (Stoner and Pervushina 2013)
      • Poaching and other forms of human disturbance keep tigers out of otherwise suitable habitats (Barber-Meyer 2012; Sunarto 2013)
    • Incidental hunting of tigers
    • Habitat degradation, destruction and fragmentation
      • As territorial top carnivores, tigers require large spaces (Dinerstein 2007)
      • India has suffered the most loss of former tiger habitat (Seidensticker 2010)
      • Although India is home to about 50% of global wild tiger population, its tigers are concentrated in only 11% of the globally available tiger habitat (Seidensticker 2010)
      • Sumatra and Malaysia are undergoing rapid deforestation - perhaps highest rate in world (WWF 2012)
      • Sumatra has lost more than 50% of its forest cover since 1985, primarily due to pulp, paper, and palm oil industries (WWF 2012)
      • Nepal's tiger populations fragmented, occupy about 36% of potential tiger habitat (Barber-Meyer et al. 2012)
      • Russia's tiger populations fragmented - 2 genetically distinct populations of Amur tigers are separated by an urban development corridor (Henry et al. 2009)
  • Click here for a video overview of threats faced by the Amur Tiger

Conflict with humans

  • Tiger attacks on humans
    • Most attacks are defensive to protect cubs or self, particularly when wounded (Goodrich 2010)
    • Man-eating tigers unusual - typically incapacitated by disease/wounds/infection/age, or are transients living in marginal areas (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002)
    • Loss of human life greatest in South Asia and Sumatra (Goodrich 2010)
      • Dozens of people killed each year by tigers in the Sundarbans (extensive mangrove forest region of Bangladesh and India)
      • 1-5 per year killed in Sumatra
  • Tiger attacks on domestic animals
    • Typically attack domestic animals as prey, most often where wild prey have been depleted (Goodrich 2010)
  • Tigers that approach human-dominated areas
    • Local people often request intervention from government authorities (Goodrich 2010)

Management Actions

Conservation actions

  • Priority actions (Global Tiger Initiative 2009)
    • Improve wildlife crime control
    • Strengthen wildlife legislation
    • Build capacity to detect trafficking
    • Mitigate human-wildlife conflicts
    • Connect discontinuous patches of forest habitat
    • Develop framework for monitoring tiger populations
    • Improve Protected Area management, infrastructure, equipment
    • Translocate tigers
    • Combat threats from development infrastructure
    • Increase public awareness of ban on tiger trade
  • Maintain prey abundance and protected zones
    • Tiger populations able to recover from significant decline if abundant prey available (Sunquist et al. 1999)
    • Isolated reserves not sufficient, due to poaching and tigers' needs for large territories and large prey populations - need core zones connected by wildlife corridors (Sanderson et al. 2006)
    • Survival of the species will require core zones of at least 3,000 sq km2 (1,158 mi2) where tigers and their prey are not hunted (Karanth and Nichols 2002; Johnson 2006)
      • About 4,000 km2 (1,550 mi2) of Amur tiger range in Sikhote-Alin Mountains, Russia, was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001
    • Better legal protection for prey species and enforcement are essential (Kawanishi et al. 2013)
  • Importance of the Indian subcontinent
    • Highly critical region to preserve genetic integrity of the species
    • Wild tigers in that region have much higher genetic variation than elsewhere, and it contains the maximum diversity of tiger habitats (Mondol et al. 2009; Ryder 2009)

Needed action

  • Effective law enforcement
  • Expansion of legal protection

Page Citations

Chundawat, Habib, et al. (2011)
Republic of Indonesia (2007)
Goodrich et al. (2015)
GTF (2007)
Jhala (2008, 2011)
Jhala et al. (2011)
Kawanishi et al. (2013)
Luo et al. (2004)
Lynam and Nowell (2011)
Miquelle et al. (2007)
Mondol et al. (2009)
Müller (2001)
Patil et al. (2013)
Ryder (2009)
Sanderson et al. (2006)
Seidensticker et al. (1999)
Tilson et al.(1997)
Tilson and Nyhus (2010)
Traylor-Holzer (2012)
Walston et al. (2010)
WWF (2012)

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