Did you know? Fewer than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild. Of the nine tiger subspecies, three are now extinct (Javan, Caspian, and Bali) and the South China tiger is considered functionally extinct (not found in the wild) with around 100 individuals living in captivity around the world. Habitat loss/fragmentation, poaching, and human-tiger conflict have diminished wild populations, and while ongoing efforts are attempting to slow the decline, more work needs to be done to ensure tiger populations do not disappear altogether. On this Endangered Species Day, we challenge you to do what you can to help protect these and other endangered species around the world!
What can I do to help tigers?
Don’t purchase products containing palm oil. Tigers have lost over 90 percent of their historical range in the past 100 years to population growth and agricultural activities, reducing tiger populations to below 4,000 individuals. Palm oil plantations are a huge culprit – every hour, an area the size of 300 football fields is lost to make way for cheap and profitable palm fields. For more information on palm oil and what you can do to help prevent its production and use, click here.
Never purchase illegal wildlife products, either at home or abroad. Many people view dead tigers as extremely valuable, using every part of their bodies in some way. There is no science to back claims that tiger or other animal parts have medicinal value, and tigers suffer needlessly at the hands of poachers or in illegal tiger farms where they are bred for their parts.
Reduce your paper consumption. Deforestation in Asia and South America for the production of paper products is a significant contributor to the loss of wild cat populations, including tigers. By reducing demand, you reduce the need to cut down vital habitat for these animals. It also contributes to the protection of other important species that rely on these forests to survive.
What other big cat species are endangered?
Leopards as a species are considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, meaning they’re at high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. Populations are threatened and decreasing, especially those outside of Africa – a rare subspecies, the Amur Leopard is critically endangered, with fewer than 100 left in the wild. The Amur leopard is important ecologically, economically, and culturally, and the conservation of its habitat (found in far eastern Russia) benefits other species, including Amur tigers and prey species like deer.
Snow leopard populations are also dwindling. Like other big cat species, hunting, habitat loss, and retaliatory killings are the main causes of the decline in snow leopard populations, but climate change poses the biggest long-term threat. As global temperatures increase, snow leopard habitat in the Himalayas will diminish by 30 percent. Doing what you can to reduce your carbon footprint can play a role in helping conserve what remains of the snow leopard’s natural habitat.
In South America, jaguar populations are declining in the Amazon. These cats are the largest in the Americas, and play a vital role in the health of rainforest ecosystems. Their historic range has decreased by 50 percent, making it more difficult for them to find mates, prey, and other necessary resources. Additionally, an increase in Chinese investment in Latin America has contributed to an increase in demand for valuable jaguar parts.
What is Carolina Tiger Rescue doing to help endangered populations?
While our main mission is to rescue captive wild cats from inappropriate or abusive situations, we also make it a priority to educate the public on the plight of wild cats, both in captivity and in the wild. Education is an important first step in effecting change of any kind, so be sure to talk to your family and friends about how they can help protect endangered cat species!
We also support the passing of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which increases protections for both the public and captive wild cats, and makes it more difficult for individuals to exploit and profit off of them.
Additionally, we do not breed. Breeding only contributes to the rampant problem of captive big cats in the United States. We let Species Survival Plans dictate breeding programs in accredited zoos around the world.
We also work with Wild Track, an organization dedicated to the creation of non-invasive research methods to monitor wildlife populations. Wild Tracks has collected the pug marks (paw prints) of tigers at Carolina Tiger Rescue to create the foundation for the Bengal tiger database which has helped create an algorithm to identify tigers by individuals, age-class, and sex using pug marks.
Do what you can to prevent the continued loss of wild cat populations around the globe, and think twice about patronizing attractions that exploit and profit off of captive wild cats. These facilities are often abusive, and while many claim to support conservation efforts, the vast majority of captive wild tigers in the U.S. do not have the genetic ability to assist in the conservation of remaining wild populations, and most organizations are only after your money. For more information on how to make sure you’re choosing the right facility to visit, click here.