Panthera tigris

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Panthera tigris
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Tiger
French Tigre
Synonym(s):
Felis tigris Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: We follow Luo et al. (2004), who confirmed the division of tigers into six extant subspecies on the basis of distinctive molecular markers:

Amur Tiger P. t. altaica: Russian Far East and northeastern China
Northern Indochinese Tiger P. t. corbetti: Indochina north of the Malayan peninsula
Malayan Tiger P. t. jacksoni: Peninsular Malaysia
Sumatran Tiger P. t. sumatrae: Sumatra
Bengal Tiger P. t. tigris: Indian sub-continent
South China Tiger P. t. amoyensis (although this subspecies has not been directly observed in the wild since the 1970s and is possibly extinct)

Three subspecies previously recognized on the basis of morphology are extinct:

Bali Tiger P. t. balica Schwarz, 1912: Bali
Javan Tiger P. t. sondaica (Temminck, 1844): Java
Caspian Tiger P. t. virgata (Illiger, 1815): dry river valleys of the Takla Makan, western slopes of the Tianshan mountains, Amudarya and Syrdarya river valleys, shores of the Caspian sea, Elburz mountains, eastern Turkey, Tigris and Euphrates river valleys.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2bcd+4bcd; C1+2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-02-11
Assessor(s): Chundawat, R.S., Habib, B., Karanth, U., Kawanishi, K., Ahmad Khan, J., Lynam, T., Miquelle, D., Nyhus, P., Sunarto, S., Tilson, R. & Sonam Wang
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser, U. & Breitenmoser-Wursten, C.
Justification:
Listed as Endangered under A2bcd+4bcd. Tiger range appears to have declined by over 50% over the last three generations (21–27 years) (Dinerstein et al. 2007, Walston et al. 2010b). Comparing present Tiger population estimates (approximately 3,000) to those in the 1990s (5,000–7,000), despite the imprecision of the earlier estimate, also suggests a decline of at least 50% over this time period. The declining trend is likely to persist in the near future. The causes of population reduction may not be reversible in some areas.

Also listed under C1+2a(i), as a precautionary approach finds that the population of breeding adult Tigers is likely fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. Estimates of the Tiger populations in 42 protected source sites where there is evidence of breeding total 2,154 Tigers (see Table) (Walston et al. 2010a). Although this is not a complete estimate of the global Tiger population (for example, most Amur Tigers in Russia are found in unprotected areas), generally Tiger status outside the source sites is poor and poorly known. IUCN Guidelines (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2010) define population as the number of mature individuals, defined as “individuals known, estimated or inferred to be capable of reproduction.” While in general this refers to all reproductive-age adults in the population, the Guidelines also “stress that the intention of the definition of mature individuals is to allow the estimate of the number of mature individuals to take account of all the factors that may make a taxon more vulnerable than otherwise might be expected.” Tigers require large populations to persist, and the survival rate of breeding adult females is a key parameter, with models suggesting population declines when mortality of breeding females rises over 15% (Chapron et al. 2008). Population declines in recent years have been most pronounced outside protected areas (Walston et al. 2010b). The IUCN Guidelines advise that “mature individuals that will never produce new recruits should not be counted.” For the purposes of Red List assessment, the estimated population in the Source Sites is used as a proxy for the breeding population of adult Tigers. This population has declined by over 20% during the last two generations (13–20 years); the decline continues and may not be reversible; and no subpopulation is greater than 250 mature individuals.
History:
2010 Endangered
2010 Endangered (IUCN 2010.2)
2002 Endangered
1996 Endangered (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Tiger once ranged widely across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Over the past 100 years Tigers have disappeared from southwest and central Asia, from two Indonesian islands (Java and Bali) and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. Tigers have lost over 93% of their historic range (Sanderson et al. 2006, Walston et al. 2010b). Tigers are currently found in thirteen Asian range states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Viet Nam. They may still persist in North Korea, although there has been no recent confirmed evidence.

In 1994, the first comprehensive assessment to delineate Tiger range was carried out (Dinerstein et al. 1997). Priority areas for Tiger conservation were estimated to total 1.64 million km² in 159 Tiger Conservation Units (TCUs), roughly equivalent to discrete meta-populations, not including Russia (later estimated at 270,0000 km²: Sanderson et al. 2006) and China. While this was generally considered representative of current distribution, Tiger presence was confirmed in just 47% the TCUs, and 89% were scored as undergoing medium to high levels of poaching of Tigers and their prey.

This exercise was revised and updated ten years later, and in delineating Tiger Conservation Landscapes (TCLs), greater emphasis was placed on actual records of Tiger presence and breeding (Sanderson et al. 2006). TCLs were defined as areas where there is sufficient habitat to conserve at least five Tigers, and Tigers have been confirmed to occur in the past decade. Tiger range was estimated at 1.1 million km²  in 76 TCLs (again, roughly equivalent to discrete meta-populations). This represented a 41% decline from the range described a decade earlier (in South and Southeast Asia, a drop from 1.55 million km² to 914,000 km²: Sanderson et al. 2006: 63), attributed primarily to poaching pressure (Dinerstein et al. 2007). Habitat loss due to deforestation was also to blame, notable particularly in Sumatra and Myanmar (Wikramanayake et al. 2010). In India, landscapes with Tigers found to be much smaller and more fragmented than in the original assessment (Sanderson et al. 2006: 63 and Figure 4.12).

Records of Tigers were collected over a ten-year period (1995–2004), a period which may have been too liberal for places like Cambodia which underwent a sharp rise in poaching pressure in the 1990s (Sanderson et al. 2006: Appendix 6). While 53% of the TCU survey respondents reported evidence of Tiger breeding in the time period 1995–2004, out of over 2,500 point records collected in 2005, just 8% had confirmed evidence of breeding Tigers (Sanderson et al. 2006: 11-17). Large areas of habitat were defined as Tiger landscapes based on suitability, but given data paucity on Tiger presence there were often few records of breeding and actual Tiger occupancy to substantiate these (Sanderson et al. 2006: Figures 2.3 and 4.8).

A review of land management within Tiger Conservation Landscapes described the TCLs as “potential habitat for Tigers” and found only 21% of their area to be legally protected.  Management effectiveness was generally poor in the protected areas, with regulatory, budgetary and enforcement constraints, and hunting cited as the main threat.  Significant portions of the TCLs are designated concessions for resource extraction (timber, oil and gas, minerals, etc.) (Forrest et al. 2011).

Tiger range was revisited again in 2009, by which time the extent of the Tiger’s range collapse had become evident. “Vast areas of Southeast Asia [were] recently found to be void of Tigers and depleted of prey by hunters” (Walston et al. 2010a: 5). The exercise used a different methodology to prioritize areas for Tiger conservation.  Source Sites were defined as areas with confirmed current presence of Tigers and evidence of breeding, population estimates of >25 breeding females, legal protection, and embedded in a larger habitat landscape with the potential to hold >50 breeding females. An extensive review of scientific literature as well as correspondence with Tiger scientists and protected area managers resulted in the identification of just 42 source sites totalling approximately 90,000 km². Many Southeast Asian countries, previously considered to have large areas with Tigers, are now considered, on the basis of extensive survey effort over the past decade or more, to have essentially no healthy breeding populations: Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bhutan have no confirmed source sites (although some sites with potential), and Laos just one (Walston et al. 2010a,b).

On the range map accompanying this Red List assessment, the Source Sites are delineated as Extant range, and the Tiger Conservation Landscapes as Probably Extant, as they are based primarily on “realistic inferences (e.g., based on distribution of suitable habitat at appropriate altitudes and proximity to areas where the taxon is known or thought very likely to remain extant,” as defined by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).
Countries:
Native:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China (Anhui - Regionally Extinct, Beijing - Regionally Extinct, Chongqing - Regionally Extinct, Fujian - Possibly Extinct, Guangdong - Possibly Extinct, Guangxi - Regionally Extinct, Guizhou - Regionally Extinct, Hebei - Regionally Extinct, Heilongjiang, Henan - Regionally Extinct, Hubei - Regionally Extinct, Hunan - Possibly Extinct, Jiangsu - Regionally Extinct, Jiangxi - Possibly Extinct, Jilin, Liaoning - Regionally Extinct, Shaanxi - Possibly Extinct, Shandong - Regionally Extinct, Shanghai - Regionally Extinct, Shanxi - Regionally Extinct, Sichuan - Regionally Extinct, Tianjin - Regionally Extinct, Tibet [or Xizang], Xinjiang - Regionally Extinct, Yunnan, Zhejiang - Possibly Extinct); India; Indonesia (Bali - Regionally Extinct, Jawa - Regionally Extinct, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; Russian Federation; Thailand; Viet Nam
Possibly extinct:
Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
Regionally extinct:
Afghanistan; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Pakistan; Singapore; Tajikistan; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The thirteen Tiger Range Countries have come together in an unprecedented pledge to double the world’s Tiger population by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger on the Asian lunar calendar, with a goal of achieving at least 6,000 Tigers. This figure was based on a baseline global population of 3,200, agreed upon at a preparatory workshop held in Kathmandu, Nepal in October 2009; 3,200 Tigers was the IUCN Red List population estimate at that time. Since then, Tiger Range Countries have adjusted their baseline national Tiger estimates, finalized in the Global Tiger Recovery Program adopted at the International Tiger Forum in St Petersburg, Russia in November 2010 (GTRP 2010). These estimates now total approximately 4,000 adult Tigers (see Table, which updates the GTRP’s figure for India based on its most recent national census results [Jhala et al. 2011]).

However, estimates of the Tiger populations in 42 protected source sites where there is evidence of breeding total 2,154 Tigers (Walston et al. 2010a, modified from their 2,126 to include the most recent published estimates from Nepal of Tiger populations in Chitwan, Bardia and Shuklaphanta). Although this is not a complete estimate of the global Tiger population (for example, most Amur Tigers in Russia are found in unprotected areas), generally Tiger status outside the source sites is poor and poorly known. IUCN Guidelines (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2010) define population as the number of mature individuals, defined as “individuals known, estimated or inferred to be capable of reproduction.” While in general this refers to all reproductive-age adults in the population, the Guidelines also “stress that the intention of the definition of mature individuals is to allow the estimate of the number of mature individuals to take account of all the factors that may make a taxon more vulnerable than otherwise might be expected.” Tigers require large populations to persist, and the survival rate of breeding adult females is a key parameter, with models suggesting population declines when mortality of breeding females rises over 15% (Chapron et al. 2008). Population declines in recent years have been most pronounced outside protected areas (Walston et al. 2010b). The IUCN Guidelines advise that “mature individuals that will never produce new recruits should not be counted.” For the purposes of Red List assessment, the estimated population in the Source Sites is used as a proxy for the breeding population of adult Tigers.

In 1998, the global Tiger population was estimated, less rigorously, at 5,000 to 7,000 Tigers (Seidensticker et al. 1999). Although to some extent the new numbers represent improved knowledge, it is clear that there have been substantial population declines, with Tigers all but eliminated from much of their recent forest range, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Follow the link below for further information about national Tiger population estimates.
For further information about this species, see 15955_Panthera_tigris.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Tigers are found mainly in the forests of tropical Asia, although they historically occurred more widely in drier and colder climes. One subspecies, the Amur Tiger P.t. altaica, persists in the Russian Far East. Photos of Tigers up to 4,500 m have been obtained in Bhutan (Wang 2008).

Availability of a sufficient prey base of large ungulates is the Tiger's major habitat requirement: "wild pigs and deer of various species are the two prey types that make up the bulk of the Tiger's diet, and in general Tigers require a good population of these species in order to survive and reproduce" (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Based on studies, Karanth et al. (2004) estimate that Tigers need to kill 50 large prey animals per year. Tigers are opportunistic predators, however, and their diet includes birds, fish, rodents, insects, amphibians, reptiles in addition to other mammals such as primates and porcupines. Tigers can also take ungulate prey much larger than themselves, including large bovids (water buffalo, gaur, banteng), elephants and rhinos (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Tigers are generally solitary, with adults maintaining exclusive territories, or home ranges. Adult female home ranges seldom overlap, whereas male ranges typically overlap from 1–3 females, a typical felid pattern of social organization. Tiger home ranges are small where prey is abundant - e.g., female home ranges in Chitwan averaged 20 km², while in the Russian Far East they are much larger at 450 km² (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Similarly, reported Tiger densities range from 11.65 adult Tigers per 100 km² where prey is abundant (India's Nagarhole National Park) to as low as 0.13–0.45 per 100 km² where prey is more thinly distributed, as in Russia's Sikhote Alin Mountains (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the early 1990s, it was feared that poaching of Tigers for the use of their bones in traditional Asian medicine would drive the Tiger to extinction (Nowell 2000). Despite strong international action to eliminate it, illegal trade persists (Nowell 2007). Tiger bone has long been considered to hold anti-inflammatory properties, with some support from Chinese medical research, but many consider the effect to be more psychological than pharmacological (Nowell and Xu 2007). Although all countries have banned use and manufacture of Tiger bone, illegal production persists in several Asian countries, especially in China, Malaysia, and Viet Nam (Nowell 2007). In China there are several operations engaged in intensive breeding ("farming" of Tigers), with the captive population reportedly reaching over 6,000. They are pressuring the government to allow them to produce Tiger products, and several have already engaged in illegal production of Tiger bone wine. Market surveys indicate that medicinal use of Tiger bone has decreased since China banned Tiger bone in 1993. Tiger farming perpetuates and threatens to re-ignite consumer demand (Nowell and Xu 2007). In 2008 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) adopted a Decision stating that “Tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives” (CITES 2008).

There are other illegal markets for Tiger products, especially skins, but also teeth and claws (particularly in Sumatra: Ng and Nemora 2007), contributing to poaching pressure. But many Tigers are also killed by people seeking to protect life and livestock. Conflict-killed Tigers can also feed into the illegal trade. Many Tiger products in trade are faked, a legal "grey area" in several countries which also perpetuates consumer demand (Nowell 2000).

Tiger poaching is driven by less by poverty and more by wealth (TRAFFIC 2008), which is putting expensive illegal Tiger products within reach of a rapidly growing group of potential consumers. TRAFFIC has documented rising levels of recent illegal trade within the Tiger range countries, with seizures and confiscations in 2007–2009 averaging the equivalent of approximately 150 Tigers per year (Verheij et al. 2010). Interdictions represent just a fraction of the true level of illegal trade, indicating that Tigers are gravely imperiled by black market demand.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Illegal trade in high-value Tiger products including skins, bones, meat and tonics is a primary threat to Tigers, which has led to their recent disappearance from broad areas of otherwise suitable habitat, and continues at unsustainable rates.

Asia is a densely populated and rapidly developing region, bringing huge pressures to bear on the large wild areas required for viable Tiger populations. Conversion of forest land to agriculture and silviculture, commercial logging, and human settlement are the main drivers of Tiger habitat loss. With their substantial dietary requirements, Tigers require a healthy large ungulate prey base, but these species are also under heavy human subsistence hunting pressure and competition from domestic livestock.

Tiger attacks on livestock and people can lead to intolerance of Tigers by neighbouring communities and presents an ongoing challenge to managers to build local support for Tiger conservation. In some areas there have been many human deaths - for example, 41 people were killed by Tigers in the Sundarbans mangrove forest of Bangladesh during an 18-month period in 2001–2003 (Khan 2004).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In 2010, the Year of the Tiger on the Asian lunar calendar, Tigers were the focus of substantial conservation effort and investment. At a “Tiger Summit” held in St. Petersburg, Russia in November 2010, the 13 Tiger Range Countries adopted a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP 2010). The goal is to effectively double the number of wild Tigers by 2022 through actions to: i) effectively preserve, manage, enhance and protect Tiger habitats; ii) eradicate poaching, smuggling and illegal trade of Tigers, their parts and derivatives; iii) cooperate in transboundary landscape management and in combating illegal trade; iv) engage with indigenous and local communities; v) increase the effectiveness of Tiger and habitat management; and vi) restore Tigers to their former range. The Tiger Summit was attended by Heads of State including Russia, China, Laos, Nepal and Bangladesh, and represents a policy commitment to Tiger conservation of unprecedented significance.

The future of Tiger range depends upon the Asian governments creating effective Tiger landscapes by conserving large areas of suitable habitat. Within these landscapes, the most urgent need is to first secure the source sites—protected areas with viable Tiger populations—where most of the global Tiger population is now clustered, and many of which are currently too threatened to deliver their potential as the wellspring of species recovery (Walston et al. 2010b).

Bibliography [top]

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CITES. 2008. Asian Big Cats. Decision 14.69. http://www.cites.org/eng/dec/valid14/14_65-72.shtml.

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Citation: Chundawat, R.S., Habib, B., Karanth, U., Kawanishi, K., Ahmad Khan, J., Lynam, T., Miquelle, D., Nyhus, P., Sunarto, S., Tilson, R. & Sonam Wang 2011. Panthera tigris. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 26 July 2014.
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