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Solitary and beautiful, the tiger prowls alone and marks its territory carefully, patrolling each corner of its domain methodically every few weeks. Expert hunters who kill their prey with a bite to the throat or back of the neck, tigers are carnivores that eat large mammals like deer, pigs and buffalo. In order to satisfy their large appetites—and their offspring—these big cats must have access to wide swaths of land and large populations of prey.

Historically, hundreds of thousands of tigers roamed across Asia, but their numbers have plummeted dramatically. Today, tigers occupy only 7 percent of their historical range. The largest tiger population is now in India, but there are wild populations in numerous Asian countries. WCS is working throughout the continent to protect this astounding mammal, which can survive in diverse habitats that include tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, grasslands, evergreen forests, and snowy, rocky terrain.

Fast Facts

Scientific NamePanthera tigris
  • Tigers can measure up to 9 feet long.
  • Tigers are very vocal and make friendly “chuffing” noises to communicate with one another.
  • A tiger’s tail hangs loosely when relaxed and twitches when nervous or agitated.

Challenges

The tiger is endangered, and  in many countries entire local populations have gone extinct. As ever-growing expanses of Asia are carved up for roads, farms, logging interests, and urban development, tigers are losing their natural habitats. Hunters who kill wildlife either for human consumption or illegal trade have depleted populations of deer and other prey, making food scarce. Logging roads give people easier access to places where wild tigers live, further compromising their fragile environments. Throughout its range, the tiger is killed for its stunning pelt, bones and other body parts, many of which are used as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicines. Even though the sale of tiger parts is illegal, a hunter can receive thousands of dollars per cat. In 1920, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, their numbers hover in the low thousands.

WCS Responds

WCS has long-standing conservation programs in nine countries where tigers live: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, and Thailand. Our goal is to help save the populations of this big cat in the wild and improve their living conditions. We have worked with government officials and business leaders for the creation of protected areas and other ambitious conservation projects, provided technical and financial support for law enforcement geared toward apprehending poachers, and collaborated on science-based projects aimed at effectively managing prey populations and human activity in tiger habitats. We also partner with local volunteers who help restore tiger habitats by, for example, removing illegal hunting traps in northeast China. In 2006, WCS and Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, together launched Tigers Forever, an ambitious collaborative effort that aims to increase tiger numbers by 50 percent at eight WCS tiger landscapes across Asia over 10 years.

WCS Projects

Indonesia’s Wildlife Crimes Unit

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit helps intercept the trade in illegal tiger parts on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The island’s populations of tigers and other endangered species are under siege by poachers who sell the animals into complex trade chains. These chains often terminate in illegal markets in China and other parts of East Asia.

From the Newsroom

Counting Tigers by Their StripesMarch 6, 2014

In this video, Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science-Asia, explains a new and improved method to study tiger populations – counting their stripes.

More Than Hope for Tigers January 10, 2013

After revealing that tigers are roaring back in three landscapes where WCS works, our CEO penned a blog for the Huffington Post relaying his recent trip to India. While there, Dr. Samper observed a wild tigress--whose presence reflects a significant increase in tiger numbers in South India. 


Tigers Roar Back December 24, 2012

Despite dangerously low global numbers, tigers are rebounding in three significant landscapes where WCS operates. Success in India, Thailand, and Russia fosters hope for these iconic big cats.

Big Cats in CrisisDecember 11, 2012

WCS recently celebrated a groundbreaking achievement: collaring snow leopards for the first time in Afghanistan. USA Today reports on this effort--documented by National Geographic--and the larger challenges facing big cats around the world.  



Land of the Leopard Opens in RussiaApril 13, 2012

A new 1,000 square-mile park will safeguard leopards and Siberian tigers in Russia. Far Eastern leopards are considered the world’s rarest big cat.

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