Nature is one of the biggest gifts to mankind. However, mankind does not seem to have enough respect to take care of things bestowed to them by nature. And, the same is obvious seeing the extinction rate of our tigers. Over 100 years ago, the population of tigers was 100,000 and as on today the number stands for just 3,200. Sounds disappointing! Where are the tigers vanishing? Tigers are the world’s largest cat species and have existed for around two million years.
Historically, hundreds and thousands of tigers roamed across Asia, however currently the numbers have plummeted drastically. They have been destroyed and degraded.
As on today, tigers are one of the most endangered species. In a lot many countries, the entire population of tigers has gone extinct
The key findings from many years of study of tiger population have indicated that tigers are declining in numbers due to the following reasons.
Why are tigers disappearing?
The biggest threat is consumer demand for tiger parts. Poached relentlessly by hunters is leading to the extinction of tigers. Tigers are killed for their body parts. Every body part of tigers that is from whiskers to tail is traded at illegal wildlife markets. Few parts of their body are used for traditional medicine and is also an increasing status symbol among Asian cultures. In the past 10 years, over 1,000 tigers have been killed and their parts have been trafficked to meet the consumer demand in Asia. Parts of a single tiger itself fetch around $50,000 in the black market, making poaching a very alluring activity in the market. Claws, teeth and whiskers are believed to provide good luck and protective powers.
Tiger Captivity in US
The United States has one of the largest populations of captive tigers in the world – estimated to 5,000 tigers. They are mostly found in zoos and rescue centers. In fact in US, a majority of them are even in private hands and end up living in their backyards.
Human Tiger Conflict
With the human population increasing immeasurably, we are encroaching into the tiger habitat leading to increased competition between tigers and people over living space and food. Humans and tigers are competing for space. This conflict is a threat to the world’s remaining tigers and is a serious problem for communities living near the tiger forests. With forests shrinking and prey getting scarce, tigers are forced to hunt domestic livestock that many local communities depend upon for their livelihood. In retaliation to this, tigers are killed and captured. The ‘conflict’ tigers are known to end up for sale in black markets. Local community dependence in forests for fuelwood, timber and food increase the risks of tiger attacks.
Poor Genetic Diversity Threat to Tigers
The genetic diversity is leading to tigers extinction. The tiger population is showing loss of many alleles and that is due to an isolated population without much genetic exchange. Downfall in the variety of their mating partners has resulted in lack of genetic diversity. And, this is again happening due to the loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation that is lowering the population size and the prevention of tigers from dispersing.
On an average tigers give birth to 2-3 cubs in every 2 to 2.5 years. In case if all the cubs in a litter die, the second litter would be produced within 5 months.
The impact of the death of a single tiger is much beyond a single loss. In case the tiger killed is a female then even their cubs are likely to die without their mother. In case if a male tiger dies then his death can result in an intensive competition for his territory among the surviving males in the population creating disruption in further breeding of the males
Lack of Wildlife Management
A lot of diseases are taking a toll on wildlife that includes the predators as well. Numerous animals are dying and there is no way their cause of death can be ascertained. There is an urgent need to incorporate this field in the area of wildlife conservation.
In the next article, we will discuss about as the solutions as what we can do to preserve our tigers, before the last tiger disappears.