8 reasons why tigers are endangered

Here are 8 reasons why the tiger is endangered. I’m referring to both the Bengal and Siberian tiger (Amur tiger). I will try and list them in order of importance.

Bengal tigers in Nepal - camera trap image
Bengal tigers in Nepal – camera trap image. Photo: Nepalese government
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Available space

What I’m referring to here is the enormous pressures placed upon the tiger in reserves in India, for instance, by ever-encroaching human activities and settlements. As the human population grows there is less space for the tiger. It is logical. Peopel erode tiger reserves. Tigers require an enormous area as their home range. The reserves in India can be too small to accommodate a reasonable population of tigers. This endangers them due to inbreeding.

Habitat loss

The above reference to human activities encroaching upon the tiger’s home range also has an impact upon the habitat of the tiger because it is converted from forest to agriculture. Or forest is logged. And, as mentioned, human settlements are constructed. These lead to loss of habitat for the tiger.

Poaching

I think most of us now know about the poaching of the Bengal tiger for their body parts in order to service the traditional Chinese medicine marketplace. Chinese traditional medicine is based upon superstition essentially and it is unsupported by science by and large. The killing of tigers to support this market is highly unethical because you can’t even say that tigers are helping to save the lives of people or to cure them.

Prey base

The prey animals of the tiger are under heavy human pressure due to hunting of these animals. With a reduction in prey animals for the tiger there will, of necessity, be a reduction in the number of tigers. There is competition between the wild prey animals of the tiger and domestic livestock in terms of feeding.

Lack of genetic diversity killing tiger
Lack of genetic diversity killing tiger.

Retaliatory killings

This is linked to an increase in human population growth. This brings the tiger and human into conflict particularly in the Sundarbans where people work and tiger live. This will, of necessity, increase the prevalence of attacks by tigers on people and livestock. People become intolerant of the presence of the tiger and engage in retaliatory attacks. In some places there have been many human deaths. About 40 people have been killed by tigers in the Sundarbans mangrove forest of Bangladesh and India over the period 2000-2010 according to a study by Barlow and associates dated 2013.

Climate change

This, of course is linked to human population growth and human activities. Tigers are adaptable but climate change is outpacing the adaptation abilities of the tiger. An example would be the Sundarbans which is the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem where tigers are adapted to this habitat. Global warming will increase sea levels which threatens the Sundarbans existence. This area is a major tiger reserve. The loss of the Sundarbans would have a devastating impact on tiger conservation.

The Siberian tiger this in the Far East of Russia primarily and in the north of China and they are adapted to cold, snowy conditions. Their habitat is liable to be changed by global warming which may severely impact the survivability of the Siberian tiger.

Tiger farms, China
Tiger farms, China. Image in the public domain.

Genetic diversity

The survivability of the tiger is threatened by a lack of genetic diversity. Cardiff University researchers, as long ago as 2013, found that 93% of DNA variants found in tigers shot during the period of the British Raj in India were not present in tigers today. It is said that the genetic diversity needed for the tiger to survive had been dramatically lost. Professor Bruford of the Cardiff School of Biosciences said: “We found that genetic diversity has been lost dramatically compared to the Raj tigers and what diversity remains has become much more subdivided into the small (20-120 individual) populations that exist today.”

The problem is the fragmentation of their habitat in small reserves resulting in lower population sizes which prevents genetic diversity and also, the prevention of tigers from dispersing means that there is a greater likelihood of inbreeding which once again has a negative impact upon genetic diversity which in turn affects the health of surviving tigers and endangers them.

China tiger farms

Although not currently an issue, the back story for tiger endangerment is the huge amount of hunting of the tiger that took place over the past hundred years until they were protected by law. At one stage the tiger was seen as a pest to be shot as often as possible. By the time people got around to realising that the tiger was endangered, there were only about 3,500 left. You see varying estimates that the number of tigers left in the world in the wild. The figure that I have quoted is about right. There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild. China has many tiger farms where they are bred like livestock, kept in cages and killed for their body parts. This undermines conservation. It is the last item on this list.

Hunted Javan tiger
Hunted Javan tiger. Image in the public domain
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