Tigers are native to much of Asia, from some of the coldest regions to the steamy rainforests of the Indonesian Islands. They are the top predator in every ecosystem they inhabit.
Until the 20th Century there were nine tiger subspecies that probably numbered over 100,000 animals. They included the giant 660-pound, or 300 kilo, Siberian (Pantera tigris altaica) and Caspian (Pantera tigris virgata; now extinct) tigers as well as the relatively small—and now also extinct—200-pound (90 kilo) Balinese tiger. Depending on whether there are any remaining South China tigers— tiger facts nobody has seen one in years—there are either 5 or 6 tiger subspecies remaining in existence; all are endangered. All tiger subspecies put together currently amount to fewer than 3,000 endangered tigers remaining in the wild.
The main reasons tigers are endangered—in most cases cases, critically endangered—are illegal hunting for their pelts, meat and body parts (used in folk medicines) as well as habitat loss that results from logging and other forms of forest destruction.
Fewer than 500 endangered Siberian, or Amur, tigers remain in the wild, all of of them in a small area of coastal Far-Eastern Russia. Although the population has appeared stable until recently, these tigers are threatened by poaching, habitat loss due to logging, road-building and development, as well as by the problem of inbreeding that has resulted from the animal facts that, before conservation measures were implemented in the 1930’s, the entire population had collapsed to around 40 individuals. Read more about endangered Siberian tigers.
The Bengal tiger (Pantera tigris tigris) is the most numerous of the endangered tiger subspecies, with probably fewer than 2,000 remaining at large in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
There are fewer than 500 each of the endangered Malayan tiger (Pantera tigris jacksoni), native to the Malay Peninsula, and the endangered Sumatran tiger (Pantera tigris sumatrae) which is found only on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra.
The Indochinese tiger (Pantera tigris corbetti) of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) probably numbers fewer than 500, according to factoflife
No critically endangered South China tiger (Pantera tigris amoyensis) has been sighted for a number of years, and the species may be extinct.
Along with the Balinese tiger, formerly found on the Indonesian Island of Bali and known to be extinct since the 1930’s, the Javan tiger (Pantera tigris sondaica), another Indonesia Island species, was also hunted to extinction, with the last one spotted in 1979.
The Caspian tiger—a huge, cold-climate species similar to the Siberian tiger, which once roamed the vast mountains of western Asia—has been extinct since the 1950’s.