Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Species Under Threat of Extinction

The tiger (Panthera Tigris) is the world’s largest cat, and it is also the most threatened with extinction. Six subspecies of tigers continue to persist, but three have gone extinct in the last 80 years.

The number of tigers in the 1900's --over 100,000 -- dropped to 4,000 in the 1970's.  Interesting to note, scientists believe there may be more tigers living in captivity than in the wild.  There are around 3,000 wild tigers in the world, of which around half live in India.  In the 1970s, the Indian tiger population dropped to near 1,000. A major effort to establish reserves and increase protection of the animals was instrumental in saving the tigers from extinction. 

Ironically, tigers are a major draw for tourists in India, and attempts are currently being made to repopulate national parks that have seen all their tigers die, many through poaching to supply the growing demand for traditional medicines in China.

There are six existing subspecies:  Bengal, Indochinese, Sumatran, Amur, Malayan, and the South-China subspecies (although no signs of the South-China subspecies have been recorded in the wild in the last 10 years and are feared to be extinct).

The three extinct subspecies include:  Javan (last recorded in the 1970's), Caspian (lost in the 1950's) and the Bali subspecies (lost in the 1930's).  These subspecies of tigers are considered extinct as the last reported sighting of the subspecies was made more than 50 years ago.

At this time, wild tigers can be found in 13 countries in Asia: India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia (Sumatra), Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, China and Eastern Russia. Sadly, tigers are extinct in 11 countries and no longer live in 93% of their historic range.

Not surprisingly, tigers are listed “Endangered” on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
So what are the tigers’ primary threats causing the reduction in their numbers?  Well, here are few:

1.     Wild tigers are being directly hunted to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market. Tiger parts are consumed for traditional medicinal purposes across Asia, with a heavy demand in China. The international illegal trade in wildlife products is a booming business, and is estimated to yield more than $6 billion a year.   Sadly, local farmers can earn a year’s wages by killing and selling just one tiger’s parts than farming.

2.     As tigers compete with humans and industry for land, they find less and less to eat. Local people hunt the same prey as tigers do, pressing tigers to resort to domestic animals and, on rarer occasions, even humans. Due to an increasing human population, humans and tigers are living in close proximity in many places across their range, which far too often results in human-tiger conflict situations. Wild tigers are frequently persecuted when villagers take retaliatory measures to protect their livestock.

3.     Agricultural expansion, timber cutting, new roads, human settlement, industrial expansion and hydroelectric dams push tigers into smaller and smaller areas of land. These forest fragments are surrounded by rapidly growing and relatively poor human populations, including increasing numbers of illegal hunters. Tigers are continually forced out of their natural habitats to find food elsewhere.  Sadly, without wilderness devoid of humans, the wild tiger will not survive.

The largest concentration of tigers can be found in India.  In March 2011, the number of tigers living in India reportedly rose, for the first time in a decade, according to a new official census published in Delhi.

Campaigners and officials hailed the news as proving that the big cat – which suffered a 97% population decline in the past century – could still be saved from extinction.

In India, many tigers continue to be killed by poachers or die as a result of pressure on their natural habitats from the rapidly growing human population or environmental damaging caused by a lack of governance and the booming economy.

The census, published in March 2011, reported the total number of wild tigers in India at around 1,550 – 10% more than in 2008.

However, like any census, there are some disagreements as to the accuracy of the census report.  Conservationists are uncertain about the accuracy of the latest figures, claiming methods used allowed the same tiger to be counted several times!  Therefore, it is hard to know if India’s conservation methods are truly successful or not.

So what kinds of tigers live at In-Sync Exotics?

The majority of tigers living at In-Sync Exotics are Bengals.  Five of our tigers are of Siberian lineage:  Emma, Eric, Kiro, and Sultan.

What’s the story on your white tigers, Harley, Kazuri, and Kiro?  Can you tell us why their coats are white and not orange?  

Well, our three white tigers have a gene mutation that produces the white tiger coats, which is rarely found in the wild.  White tigers born in the wild tend not to survive into adulthood, and therefore white tigers are mainly found in captivity due to its popularity.  According to Kailash Sankhala, the last adult white tiger ever seen in the wild was shot in 1958. The captive white tiger is not a pure bred tiger, or a separate subspecies, but a color variation. 

All white tigers are at least part Bengal; mainly a Bangel/Siberian mix, making them ineligible for the Survival Species Program.  It is thought that the recessive gene responsible for the white coat color is carried only by Bengal tigers, but no one has discovered why.

Breeding white tigers often leads to inbreeding in order to obtain a higher percentage of white cubs born to two tigers that carry this recessive gene. That means breeding brother to sister or father to daughter; generation after generation after generation in order to produce white tiger cubs. Sadly, this inbreeding increases the probability that many white tigers are born with cleft palates, crossed eyes, and scoliosis.  Even relatively healthy white tigers generally do not live as long as their orange-furred counterparts.

Harley, Kazuri, and Kiro are the products of breeding two orange tigers that carry the recessive gene necessary for the white coat coloring—Brooks, their father, was mated with his sister in order to produce the three white cubs.  You may recall, Harley, Kazuri, Kiro, and Brooks were rescued from private owners/breeders who could no longer care for them due to their age and declining health.

To read more about our tigers’ history prior to their arrival at In-Sync Exotics, please visit Our Resident’s page. 

We hope that you will have an opportunity to visit our tigers, as they are truly magnificent (if we may say so proudly)! 

Test your knowledge of our white tigers:

Question 1:  Which tiger above has crossed eyes?
Question 2: Which tiger is going to Texas A&M Veterinarian Medicine to check on his palate?
Questions:  Where are the three tigers from?

Post your answers below in the comment box!  The answers will be posted on Friday's blog posting.  Good luck!


  1. Elizabeth Franklin ;o)October 27, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    I know! I know! :) But I won't ruin it lol

  2. Does In Sync spay and neuter the animals that are going extinct? Is there a breeding program?

  3. Yes, we do spay and neuter our wild cats. Even though tigers are endangered in the wild, there is a surplus of them living in captivity. We often have to make agonizing choices not to accept tigers that need a place to call home, because of a lack of space and/or funding.

    Our tigers cannot be a part of the Survival Species Plan since we unable determine whether or not they are hybrid cats (i.e. mix between Siberian and Bangal).

    Therefore, In-Sync Exotics exists to care for those tigers that have no place to go.