THE STATUS OF TIGERS
Of the eight original subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 60 years, an average of one every 20 years:
Bali tiger — extinct in the 1930s
Caspian tiger — extinct in the 1970s
Javan tiger — extinct in the 1980s
The number of tigers in the 1900′s –over 100,000 — dropped to 4,000 in the 1970′s. Today, they are a critically endangered species with the total of all the wild populations of the five remaining subspecies (Bengal, Indo-Chinese, Siberian, South China, and Sumatran) is an estimated 4,600 and 7,700 tigers. It is known that all remaining tigers live in small, isolated populations in widely scattered reserves. The largest concentration of tigers in one reserve is about 250.
Today wild tigers exist in Eastern Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) , North Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Bhutan, India and Nepal.
The most critically endangered species is the South China or Amoy tiger whose numbers have plummeted from 4,000 in 1949 to fewer than 50 today. Perhaps none survive in the wild, and their chances of recovery are remote. Those that survive in Chinese zoos are all descendants of six tigers. They suffer from loss of genetic diversity and low reproduction.
The Siberian or Amur tiger is also severely threatened. In 1991, one-third of the Siberian tigers were killed to meet the demand for their bones and other parts used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Only 150 to 200 survive in the wild, on three reserves in the Russian Far East. About 490 are managed in international zoo conservation programs.
Little is known about the status of the Indochinese tiger due to its scattered habitat across Thailand, as well as Myanmar, southern China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Malaysia. It is estimated that 900 to 1,200 are left in about 75 isolated reserves. About 60 live in zoos.
The Sumatran tiger population is estimated to be 400 to 500, confined to the island of Sumatra. Of these, 400 are found in five national parks and two game reserves. The other 100 live outside reserves, and their habitat is likely to be lost to expanding development in the near future.
Up to two-thirds of remaining tigers — between 2,700 to 4,300 — are Bengal tigers, found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. However, all of these tigers are scattered in over 100 reserves. Approximately 333 live in captivity.