Why are tigers important?
Tigers are a keystone species, meaning they have a significant impact on the environment that they live in.
As top predators, they help to maintain herbivore populations, reducing disease and preventing overgrazing. As they need so much space, protecting tigers and their habitats means that we can protect many other species.
~3,726-5,578 (~2,608-3,905 mature individuals, with a best estimate of ~3,104), last assessed in 2021; ~3,167 tigers are found in India, according to the 2022 National Tiger Census
Found mainly in the forests of Asia, from the freezing boreal forests to hot and humid tropical rainforests
Across a dozen countries in Asia, with the majority found in India and Russia
Weight: 100-260kg, length: 1.5-3m, shoulder height: 80-100cm
Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss, human-tiger conflict, captivity
Did you know?!
The stripes of a tiger are completely unique to each individual and can be used to identify them, and their roar can be heard as far as three kilometres away!
How to recognise a tiger
Tigers are the largest cat on earth. There are six surviving subspecies, the Siberian tiger, the Southern China tiger (although possibly extinct in the wild), the Indochinese tiger, the Malayan tiger, the Sumatran tiger and the Bengal tiger.
They are agile, with flexible bodies designed for running, jumping and climbing. Heavily muscled forelimbs, retractable claws, powerful jaws, sharp teeth and acute senses make them incredible hunters.
Tigers have a reddish-orange to yellow-ochre coat with a white belly and black stripes and their distinctive markings blend into the colours and shadows of their habitat, providing excellent camouflage.
Although tiger size varies widely between subspecies and where they live, male tigers tend to be much larger than females.
Where do tigers live?
Tigers are found in temperate forests, tropical rainforests, grasslands and coastal to mountain elevations in small areas across Asia. Due to their large space requirements, they typically avoid areas which are split into smaller, separate areas and/or are dominated by people.
Tigers are generally solitary, living and hunting alone. The size of their territory varies depending on the abundance of prey. Some tiger species, such as the Siberian tiger, have extremely large territories of up to 2,000km. While female and male tigers may have overlapping territories, males do not share territory with other males.
Tigers use scent to communicate – they spray urine and rub scent on trees and bushes to inform other cats of their whereabouts and to mark their territory.
Females give birth to a litter of two or three cubs after a 90 – 110 day pregnancy. Cubs spend a lot of time playing, during which they learn how to stalk, fight and communicate. Adults may also show play behaviours with cubs. Cubs learn to hunt and kill from around six months of age but remain dependent on their mother for at least 15 months, after which time they will leave to find their own territory.
Tiger populations are on the brink of extinction in many countries in South East Asia, due, largely, to habitat loss. This is the result of rapid human population expansion and the related increases in mining, logging, farming, palm oil plantations, settlements, roads and railways.
As tiger habitats have split and separated, inbreeding has become more common, which also contributes to the decline in numbers.
Throughout their range, tigers find themselves in conflict with farmers that persecute them for killing their livestock. People have also been attacked and killed by tigers, which has further fuelled retaliatory killings and low tolerance for the animals.
Many large tracts of forest are now empty of wild prey and livestock are, increasingly, competing with tigers and their prey for habitat, further driving tiger numbers down.
Poaching and the exploitation of tigers in tiger farms for their skins as luxury rugs and home décor, and for their bones which are used to make traditional Asian medicines and health tonics, is a significant threat.
Indiscriminate snaring and poison traps, often set for hunting small animals for bushmeat, inevitably end up injuring or killing tigers, contributing to their decline.
Tigers are also exploited and abused in captivity – in circuses, zoos, tiger farms and in people’s private collections of wild animals as pets.
Adopt a tiger
You can help Born Free provide lifetime care for Gopal and other rescued tigers, at our sanctuary in India, as well as protect tigers in the wild when you adopt a tiger today.