Longevity & Causes of Death
- Tigers may live up to 26 years.
- Asiatic wild dogs called dholes may prey upon tigers but these rare attacks are usually countered with drastic losses to the dholes' pack. Humans are the greatest threat to all tiger populations.
Humans are the greatest threat to all tiger populations.
- The main threats to tiger populations today are habitat loss/fragmentation and poaching.
- Habitat Loss and fragmentation occurs when land is modified for agricultural purposes, logging, and land conversion for grazing domestic animals. The rapidly growing human population has reduced the number of viable tiger habitats. The human population in India alone has increased by nearly 50% since 1973 with a total population in 1995 estimated to be about 931 million. Prime tiger habitats, such as forests and grasslands, are being converted for agricultural needs. Between 1980 and 1990 in Asia, about 470,000 square km (181,467 square mi) of forest were lost. It is estimated that deforestation will continue at a rate of 47,000 square km (18,147 square mi) per year.
- Tigers require large interconnected tracts of suitable habitat to maintain healthy breeding populations. The conversion of land for agricultural purposes creates wide expanses of open land in which may isolate tiger populations from one another. In addition to the reduced genetic variability, fragmentation may also lead to more aggressive encounters between tigers due to the increased competition for resources and mates.
- Poaching is the illegal killing of an animal. Tigers are poached for two main reasons: their threat or perceived threat to wildlife and/or people and monetary gain. Historically tigers were poached for furs. While there is still some sold illegally, increased public awareness campaigns and international trade controls have reduced this demand. Tigers may prey upon agricultural animals and have been illegally shot at or poisoned by consuming baited carcasses. However, tigers are mainly poached for their bones and other body parts which are in great demand for traditional Chinese medicines. See Tiger Medicine section below.
- Illegal trade commerce is difficult to control because poaching networks are well organized and countries in which tigers live often do not have resources available to hire, equip and train law enforcement officers.
- Tiger Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicines have utilized tiger bones for thousands of years because it is thought to calm fright and cure ulcers, bites, rheumatism, convulsions and burns. Over 110 pharmaceutical factories in 1985 were producing medicines with tiger components. The value of tiger bone varies by locality, however it is estimated that poachers receive about $130 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) in Nepal, $130 to $175 per kilogram in Vietnam and as much as $300 per kilogram in Russia. It is estimated that one complete tiger skeleton is valued at ten years worth of salary in seven nations within the tiger's range. This high demand has made tiger bones more valuable than their skin.