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Poaching to Palm Oil: Tigers at Risk of Extinction

Actor Leonard DiCaprio made news last fall for his conservation work when his foundation awarded $3 million to the World Wildlife Fund for an initiative to help Nepal double its population of wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.

As DiCaprio explained, “Time is running out for the world’s remaining 3,200 tigers, largely the result of habitat destruction and escalating illegal poaching.”

International Tiger Day is celebrated annually on July 29. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

While conservation groups and foundations have for years been doing important work to save these animals in the wild, tigers remain an endangered species.

Threats faced by these cats include poaching for their pelts, illegal rainforest destruction for palm oil production and habitat loss due to climate change, such as coastal erosion due to sea level rise.

International Tiger Day is celebrated annually on July 29 to bring attention to the perils faced by these fascinating animals.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers living in the wild in the early 1900s. The range of these animals has also diminished and they are now only found in Southeast and South Asia, China and the Russian Far East. The following is a breakdown of tiger numbers by subspecies:

Bengal tiger: Less than 2,000
Indochinese tiger: 750-1,300
Siberian tiger: Around 450
Sumatran tiger: 400-500
Malayan tiger: 600-800
South Chinese tiger: Extinct in the wild
Caspian tiger: Extinct
Javan tiger: Extinct
Bali tiger: Extinct

This short video offers some facts about tigers:

And here are some, perhaps surprising, bonus facts from OneKind:

  • Like its ancestor, the sabre-tooth cat, the tiger relies heavily on its powerful teeth for survival. If it loses its canines (tearing teeth) through injury or old age, it can no longer kill and is likely to starve to death.

  • The roar of a Bengal tiger can carry for over 2km at night.

  • Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes).

  • Like domestic cats, all tigers can purr. Unlike their tame relatives, however, which can purr as they breathe both in and out, tigers purr only as they breathe out.

  • Unlike other cats, tigers are good swimmers and often cool off in lakes and streams during the heat of the day.

How can you help these endangered animals? Consider symbolically adopting a tiger to help save animals in the wild or take action by sending a message to government leaders.

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