Humans are the tiger’s only serious predator, and poaching for illegal trade in high-value tiger products including skins, bones, teeth, claws, meat, and tonics is the tiger’s greatest threat.
Humans are the tiger’s only serious predator. Poaching for 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. That there are roughly one million square kilometres of unoccupied tiger habitat is a clear indication that poaching is the greatest threat to tigers range-wide.
There are several illegal markets for tiger products, especially skins, but also teeth and claws, particularly in Sumatra, contributing to poaching pressure. Many tigers are killed by people seeking to protect life and livestock, but end up feeding into the illegal trade. Many tiger products in trade are faked, a legal “grey area” in several countries which also perpetuates consumer demand.
Tiger poaching is driven less by poverty and more by wealth, 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. Interdictions represent just a fraction of the true level of illegal trade, indicating that Tigers are gravely imperilled by black market demand.
Sources: (Goodrich et al., 2015; Larson, 2006; Ng & Nemora, 2007; Nowell 2000; Tilson & Nyhus, 2010; TRAFFIC, 2008; Verheij, Foley, & Engel, 2010; World Animal Foundation, Tiger, Tiger Fact Sheet)
Image: Alexas Fotosl