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ENDANGERED: The Tigers

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Tigers are famously the face of the 'big cat' family. With an endangered status and the WWF estimating the wild population at around 3,900, tigers are extremely vulnerable to becoming extinct. In order to keep their population stable, it is important to understand how humans have played a role in their endangerment.

An Indian tiger in the wild. Royal ,Bengal tiger

Image Credit:Derrick Brutel on Wikipedia

Like many endangered species, one of the most instrumental factors in their decline was through habitat destruction and change.

Tigers are found in the Asian continent.Typically their habitat includes tropical forests, temperate forests and grasslands found in countries such as Borneo, Sumatra and around the Himalayas regions. A variety of sub-species exist under the tiger species. According to Tigers World, the South China Tiger is already extinct in the wild. The Sumatran Tiger is classified as critically endangered. Other species such as the Malayan Tiger, Bengal Tiger and the Indochinese Tiger are classified as endangered

Tigers, like many large predators act as an integral part of the ecological food chain, maintaining a balance in their habitats. In changing our behaviour to protect tiger habitats, we would have a positive knock-on effect on all other species that flourish in these areas too.

Why have their habitats disappeared?

Asia is notorious for its extensive population, these people require land to live and grow crops to feed them. Increased demand for agricultural land in the region means many of the forested areas have been cleared, it is estimated that 99% of China's original forest habitat has been destroyed. Human expansion into tigers' habitats decreases the available resources for tigers to live off. This includes their shelter, camouflage and prey. This fragmentation of tiger habitats places pressure on tigers to survive. Along with increased settlements comes pressure from domestic animals. Human and tiger conflict can be common in areas of settlement where people own livestock. Sometimes tigers are shot by local people on the grounds of protecting their livestock from starving tigers. 

Not only can tigers be shot to protect domesticated animals, tiger skins are are also popular around the world and  available on the black market. Tiger poaching is an illegal act, but as the Independent estimated, the net worth of poaching was around £11 billion per year back in 2014 so its still a very prevalent business. This makes poaching a real threat to tigers along with the habitat loss they are faced with. 

 Panthera tigris amoyensis

Image Credit: World66 from Wikipedia

Like many other species which are endangered today, a hugely influential attribute to the tigers decline is anthropogenic climate change. Rising sea levels are reclaiming much of the low lying land particularly in Asia, such as the mangrove regions. Factors such as erosional damage and fresh water saline levels increasing will alter the equilibrium in a tigers habitat. In turn this forces the tigers to move out of their comfort zone and into areas closer to human populations or lacking in their desired prey.

What is being done?

However all is not lost for our tigers, sources actually suggest that tiger numbers are finally challenging their decline. Wildlife reserves act as protected areas such as Indonesia's Kerinci Seblat, in order to remove the threat of poachers and local people competing for similar food resources. However, these pose their own risks, tigers can easily become isolated and then chances of reproduction are at risk of becoming severely reduced. Although numbers have dropped significantly they're still living in the wild after losing almost 93% of their habitat area. 

WWF also acknowledge there is much more work to be done in helping protect the planet's tiger population. Their own aim is to double the number of tigers in the wild, under their own goal 'T x 2' by 2022, the next chinese year of the tiger. Act for Wildlife also claims that there has been a 63% increase in the number of tigers existing in wild Nepal. There is a large focus on reducing the human-tiger conflicts that are becoming an inevitable issue in the area, as tiger habitats grow smaller and smaller. 

Undoubtedly, the biggest and most significant threat to the tiger today, are the human species themselves. Our associated impacts and demands on habitats are so severe, it pushes species such as the tiger into extinction. Although positive efforts are evident and have been made to save tigers from becoming completely extinct, there is still plenty of action required to boost tiger populations and to protect and nurture their habitats once again.

Read more from the ENDANGERED weekly feature

Lead Image: S. Taheri on Wikipedia




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