July 29th is Global Tiger Day, a time to celebrate and raise awareness for this endangered species. I spoke to Nicole Edmison, one of our Museum Specialists in the Division of Mammals, who gave me some quick facts about tigers!
- Tigers are the biggest cats in the world.
- Tigers are identifiable by their unique stripes – similar to how our fingerprints can identify us!
- You can guess what region they are from based on their fur length and slight color variations.
- Tigers don’t purr despite being cats.
- There are more tigers alive in captivity than in the wild.
- We have lost 97% of our wild tiger population in just over a century.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, a Smithsonian partner in the Global Tiger Initiative, there are only approximately 3,200 tigers left in the wild and they are listed as an endangered species on the ICUN Red List. Of the nine subspecies, Bali, Java, Caspian, Sumatran, Amur (or Siberian), Indian (or Bengal), South China, Malayan, and Indo-Chinese, one can only find six subspecies now as the first three subspecies are extinct. It is possible that the South Chinese tiger may also be extinct as there hasn’t been a sighting in the past ten years. Wild tigers can still be found in 11 countries in Asia: India, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, Russia, Bangladesh, Indonesia (Sumatra), Myanmar, China, and Lao PDR.
Climate change is another major threat to the tiger population. Bengal tigers are found in the Sundarbans, a large mangrove forest shared by India and Bangladesh, which is home to the world’s largest tiger populations. The area protects coastal regions from storm surges and wind damage, but with the rising sea levels caused by climate change, this could destroy these forests and the remaining habitat of this tiger population.
Tigers will continue to face these threats if people continue to be unaware of their actions and ignore laws that are in place to protect this endangered species. You can help us raise awareness of these issues and learn more about the protection and expansion of wild tiger habitats by visiting the Museum’s Hall of Mammals, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, and by supporting tiger conservation at the Global Tiger Initiative.
Special thanks to Nicole Edmison, Museum Specialist, Mammals Division for speaking with me about tigers! Information sourced from the World Wildlife Fund website.
By Jessica Lam, Social Media and Public Affairs Intern, National Museum of Natural History