Population Distribution of Tigers
About one million years ago, the predecessor to the modern tiger lived in Southern China and expanded in all directions throughout all Asia from the Sea of Okhotsk (in the northwest Pacific) to Eastern Turkey. Today these Big Cats can only be found in about seven percent of their previous habitat. The primary original subspecies, the South China tiger, lives only loosely scattered throughout China. The Amur-Tiger can be found in the Amur- and Usur-regions in Russia’s Far East as well as in areas in neighboring China and in North Korea. The Bengal Tiger occupies the Indian subcontinent. The Sumatra Tiger lives in the forests and swamps in Sumatra, and the Indochinese Tiger lives in continental Southeast Asia – from eastern Myanmar across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and extending into Cambodia. And the Malaysia Tiger is primarily at home on the Malaysian peninsula, in Thailand’s extreme South and in Malaysia.
The tiger populations have decreased dramatically in the twentieth century. In 1920 there were still about 100,000 animals worldwide, and had decreased to an estimated paucity of 4,000 by the 1970s. The Java Tiger and the Caspian Tiger became extinct at this time. The Bali Tiger had disappeared from the Earth already in the 1930s. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Amur Tiger was also endangered. In 1947, the number of this most northerly tiger race had dwindled to 20 or 30 in the wild. Due in large part to the dedicated efforts of the WWF, tiger populations in East Siberia and India recovered and remained stable in the following years. In other areas, populations declined further. By the year 2000, the total tiger population worldwide was estimated at only 5,000 to 7,000. Since then, the number of tigers in the wild has decreased even further. Today, estimates indicate that only approximately 3,900 tigers exist in the wild. The IUCN lists the total tiger population worldwide as “endangered,” and some subspecies such as the Sumatra and South-Chinese Tigers are classified as “critically endangered.” The tiger is extinct today from the nations: Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kirgistan, North Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
(Population Distribution of Tigers, Source: WWF)
The greatest Threats for Tigers
The loss of habitat and poaching are the primary causes for the massive decrease in these Big Cats’ populations. Large forests once populated by tigers fell prey to human use. The remaining oftentimes widely distributed and isolated habitats complicate or hinder exchange between tiger populations and also of their prey. Especially small and isolated groups are threatened by a genetic thinning as well as an increased susceptibility to ecological catastrophes such as forest fires and illness.
In the last 150 years, approximately 93% of tiger habitat has disappeared. Based on 2005 research, the area available to tigers in 1995 has decreased by 40%. Tigers today live in only 7% of the area originally available to them. The four largest tiger regions are found in the Russian Far East and northeast China, in the Terai flatlands between India and Nepal, in the Namdapha-Manas Forest Complex between Bhutan, northeast India, and northern Myanmar, as well as in the Tenasserim-region in Myanmar and Thailand. As the reserves for the shy cats becomes ever smaller, conflicts with local populace increases. Tigers are often killed to protect livestock herds and families.
Source: WWF Artenporträt Tiger