Threats to tigers
All the threats that tigers face stem from human actions.
In the natural world the tiger is an apex predator – it’s only threat is man. The threats that man has created can be split into three categories:
Loss of habitat
The staggering growth in the human population throughout tiger range countries means less space for the tiger and the depletion of its prey forcing it into conflict with humans.
Tiger habitat is being overtaken by agricultural land, timber cutting, access routes, human settlement and hydroelectric dams – all of which have contributed to a 93% loss of the historic tiger range over the last 100 years. All of this is creating small pockets of land in which tigers now live which are surrounded by rapidly increasing human populations. Isolated tiger populations can cause inbreeding which leads to a reduction in genetic diversity. To help remedy this, wildlife corridors are being built, linking the isolated areas and allowing the movement of wildlife.
As tigers wander, trying to find new habitats, they often come into contact with humans which can lead to conflict. Depletion of the tiger’s natural prey will often cause tigers to hunt domestic livestock, another cause for conflict.
Poaching is a massive threat for the last 3,500 wild tigers. Part of the illegal wildlife trade that is estimated to be worth US$19 billion a year, poaching is dictated by increasingly sophisticated and well-armed criminal gangs. The demand for tiger parts as trophies, status symbols and as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine is driving the tiger to the brink of extinction.
In the first half of the 20th century hunting for trophies and as a form of pest control devastated tiger numbers. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that tiger hunting was made illegal in India.