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Which Big Cat Is the Closest to Extinction?

Time is running out for the iconic tiger, known scientifically as Panthera tigris. The largest of the world’s big cats, the tiger can grow to 660 pounds (300 kg) and 10 feet (3 m) in length. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer places for these skilled hunters to live. Today’s tigers mostly dwell in the forests of tropical Asia, including India and Indonesia, but they have lost 93 percent of their historic ranges, mainly due to poaching and loss of habitat. A century ago, there were about 100,000 of these big cats on Earth, but today there are fewer than 3,900.

Talking about tigers:

  • The tiger is listed as “endangered.” In 2015, the global wild tiger population was estimated to be between 3,062 and 3,948 mature animals. Most of the population is forced to live in small, isolated pockets.

  • Tigers use sight and sound to stalk their prey, not scent. They typically hunt alone, and can eat more than 80 pounds (36.3 kg) of meat in one sitting, often dining on deer or wild boar.

  • Today’s tigers are forced to compete for living space with an ever-growing human population. They’re also being killed and used medicinally: there is a $20 billion USD a year illegal body parts market concentrated in China.

Discussion Comments


So many tigers are kept as pets all over the world when they could be out in the wild breeding.

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    • A century ago, there were some 100,000 wild tigers; today, there are fewer than 3,900.
      By: StarJumper
      A century ago, there were some 100,000 wild tigers; today, there are fewer than 3,900.