Asia's most iconic predator, the tiger, is vanishing. These magnificent cats are threatened by habitat loss, diminished prey, human-wildlife conflict, and poaching, and as a result they are now classified as Endangered. In order for tigers to survive in the wild, we must secure their populations across a broad range of habitats. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is working hard to protect tigers in the wild and help their numbers grow.
Habitat Loss and Human-Wildlife Conflict:
In 1920, an estimated 100,000 wild tigers inhabited a range extending across Asia. Today, there are only 3,000 to 4,000 wild tigers left, including an estimated 1,000 breeding females, and a mere seven percent remains of the tiger's once vast geographic range. The prey animals that tigers rely on are dwindling along with this loss of habitat, forcing tigers to seek other sources of food. A rapidly-growing human population and the corresponding increase in livestock and land used for farming means fewer resources available for tigers, and more conflict with humans and their livestock. Overgrazing by livestock and poorly managed development can have a detrimental effect on tigers' wild prey and the health of their overall habitat, as well. The conflict between wildlife and humans over diminishing resources is a problem throughout Asia.
Poaching is a major threat to tigers. People hunt these beautiful cats for their stunning pelts as well as their bones, blood, eyes and other body parts, which are used in traditional medicine and in commercial products. The demand for such high-status products is increasing across Asia and worldwide, and the population growth for wild tigers is not keeping pace with the devastating losses due to poaching. Moreover, tiger hunting is still legal in some of the species' range countries despite their endangered status.
Monitoring Tiger Populations and Protecting Habitat:
WCS has become a leader in tiger conservation and fieldwork through practices shaped by careful science, producing more than 75 percent of the world's recent research on tigers. In addition to tracking the status, population numbers and well-being of wild tiger populations, the project creates protected areas for wildlife and helps range state governments and local people better manage these areas effectively, monitoring prey populations and human activities in tiger habitats to be sure that conservation programs and strategies are working. WCS also collaborates with governments in the landscapes surrounding protected areas, to promote sustainable land-use practices that will provide connectivity for Asia's wide-ranging tigers and protect against habitat fragmentation and isolation. The goal is to increase and stabilize tiger populations in key habitats while maintaining genetic diversity in the world's remaining wild tigers. WCS is working in all nine countries where wild tigers still remain and could potentially repopulate: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, and Thailand.
Stopping the Tiger Trade:
WCS is working to put a stop to tiger poaching, using anti-poaching patrols to prevent illegal hunting, and supporting local law enforcement that apprehends poachers. The WCS Tiger Conservation Project works with national and local governments to implement laws and policies that can monitor, control and reduce the trade in tiger parts and products, with a particular focus on the wildlife markets in China and Vietnam. Educating consumers and increasing tiger conservation awareness is another important part of the WCS Tiger Project, which recognizes that tigers will still be threatened as long as there is a demand for their body parts.
Oakland Zoo's Conservation Grant has provided funds for the WCS Tiger Project.
Outreach and Education
Oakland Zoo connects to our public through docent tours and stations, special events and a variety of outreach and education programs with messages about tigers, their status in the wild, and how to take action for their conservation.