“We have lost 97% of wild tigers in just over a century. However, the wild tiger number rises in India.”
The largest of all the Asian big cats, tigers rely primarily on sight and sound rather than smell. They typically hunt alone and stalk prey. A tiger can consume up to 88 pounds of meat at one time. On average, tigers give birth to two or three cubs every two years. If all the cubs in one litter die, a second litter may be produced within five months.
Tigers generally gain independence at two years of age and attain sexual maturity at age three or four for females and at four or five years for males. Juvenile mortality is high however—about half of all cubs do not survive more than two years. Tigers have been known to reach the age of 26 years in the wild.
Males of the largest subspecies, the Amur (Siberian) tiger, may weigh up to 660 pounds. For males of the smallest subspecies—the Sumatran tiger—upper range is at around 310 pounds. Within each subspecies, males are heavier than females.
Tigers are mostly solitary, apart from associations between mother and offspring. Individual tigers have a large territory, and the size is determined mostly by the availability of prey. Although individuals do not patrol their territories, they visit them over a period of days or weeks and mark their domain with urine and feces.
Ninety-seven percent. In the last 100 years, tiger populations have declined that dramatically, from 100,000 to as few as 3,200 in the wild today. And it’s humans—through rampant poaching and habitat destruction—who are driving these big cats to extinction.
Bringing tigers back from the brink takes commitment on a global scale. Faced with this challenge, tiger range countries took a stand and set an ambitious species conservation goal: double the number of wild tigers by 2022—the next Year of the Tiger. The goal is called Tx2.
Saving tigers is about more than restoring a single species. As a large predator, tigers play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Every time we protect a tiger, we protect around 25,000 acres of forest—forests that sustain wildlife and local communities and supply people around the world with clean air, water, food, and products. By saving tigers, we show the world that conservation and development can go hand in hand. Tx2 is a model of conservation for other species too. And it protects natural resources, contributing to a positive future for people, for wildlife, and the planet.
An Effective Conservation Tool
In 2010, the governments of the world’s 13 tiger range countries gathered and created the Global Tiger Recovery Plan, outlining how each country could reach the Tx2 target. Species and conservation experts, including WWF, played a key role in developing the plan and continue to ensure it is put into practice. With governments, scientists, rangers, communities, and others, we are working to ensure tiger conservation is given the priority and investment it requires.
One of the biggest threats to tigers today is poaching. Wildlife crime has reached critical levels globally, with an underground market worth an estimated $19 billion annually. From the whiskers to the tail, every part of a tiger can be traded, making them a lucrative target. Governments around the world must combat poaching if tigers are to have a future. Nepal has already proved that zero poaching is possible with a professionalized approach to wildlife protection.
Over the last century, tigers have also faced massive habitat loss. But we know that given adequate space, prey, and protection, wild tiger populations can increase. Habitats for a strong tiger population—with optimal conditions for tigers to breed and thrive—have now been identified and are the focus of Tx2 efforts.
In order to measure progress toward our goal, tiger range countries must survey their tiger populations. Bhutan recently conducted its first-ever national tiger survey, counting 103 tigers. Earlier this year, India’s latest tiger census showed a rise to 2,226 tigers from only 1,706 in 2010. And Amur tiger numbers in Russia increased to as many as 540 in the last decade, while recent camera-trap footage captured the first video evidence of Amur tiger cubs inside China.
Working with governments, communities, and other organizations, WWF is building a future in which tigers can thrive. Our efforts include training rangers, tackling the illegal wildlife trade, and developing conservation standards and technology to achieve zero poaching. Together we can help tigers rebound and continue to increase in number, by 2022 and beyond.