Tigers are among the most famous and beloved of all big cats. They’re known for their extraordinary coloring, as well as their ferocious hunting abilities. But where do tigers live? You might be surprised to learn that tigers once occupied a vast territory that stretched all the way from Turkey and the Caspian Sea, down to the islands of Indonesia.
Today, tigers live in just 5% of their former range. Additionally, three of the nine subspecies of tiger have officially been declared extinct. Here, we’ll discover where the world’s remaining tigers live and what is being done to preserve them.
Read on to learn the answer to the question: where do tigers live?
Are Tigers Endangered?
In the past, scientists classified tigers into nine subspecies, three of which are now extinct. However, today, most define only two species of tiger: the continental tiger and the Sunda Island tiger. Continental tigers are those that live in mainland Asia, while Sunda Island tigers are those found on Indonesian islands.
But, no matter where they are, all remaining tigers face tremendous pressure from expanding human population and activity. Today, there are fewer than 5,000 tigers left in the wild. Some, like those in Russia, China, Nepal, and Bhutan, have stable populations. While others, like those in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, continue to decline.
Where Do Tigers Live in the World?
Once, tigers lived across Asia. When answering the question of where tigers live, it’s important to recognize that present tiger ranges are much, much smaller than historic ranges. Tigers once occupied the entirety of forested habitat from the Russian Far East, to the Indian subcontinent, to the island of Indonesia, and as far west as Turkey.
Where do tigers live today and what kind of habitats do they prefer? Let’s take a look.
1. Russian Far East
In historic times, tigers lived throughout the forests of the east coast of Russia. Today, there are fewer than 600 wild Siberian (Amur) tigers left in the Russian Far East. Their biggest threats are poaching, habitat loss, and fragmentation. Like all tigers, Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East are both apex predators and keystone species. They’re at the top of the food chain; without tigers, the entire local ecosystem suffers. Historically, Siberian tigers could be found in Mongolia, China, and the Korean Peninsula. They’re the largest of all extant tigers, with males growing up to 11 feet long and weighing up to 600 pounds.
2. Indian Subcontinent
India, Nepal, and Bhutan are home to the largest and stablest population of wild tigers left in the world. These tigers are known as Bengal tigers. In addition to forests, Bengal tigers also live in mangrove swamps, grasslands, and mountainous areas. They hunt chital, wild pig, wild buffalo, and other media to large-sized ungulates. Bengal tigers are quite large; males grow up to 570 pounds and may reach 10 feet in length. Unfortunately, negative interactions with humans have led to widespread fear and hatred of these predators in some areas.
3. Indochinese Peninsula
Just where do tigers live? The easy answer is Asia. But, a closer look reveals that tigers now exist in four distinct subsections. The most widespread of these lies on the Indochinese Peninsula, which includes southern China, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. The tiger subspecies living in this area are the Malayan tiger, the Indochinese tiger, and the South China tiger. These tigers live in lush tropical forests. Their primary threats are habitat loss and fragmentation, loss of prey species, and poaching.
Formerly, Indonesian tigers lived on the islands of Java, Bali, and Sumatra. Today, both the Javan and Bali tigers are extinct, with only the Sumatran tiger remaining. Further, scientists now commonly classify only two subspecies of tiger; the continental tiger and the Sunda Island tiger. The Sumatran tiger is the only remaining member of the Sunda Island subspecies. There are thought to be fewer than 400 of these tigers living in the forests of Sumatra. Like other species, their primary threats come from habitat loss and poaching.
Captive Populations of Tigers
If you’re wondering where tigers live, then you might be interested to know that there are potentially more tigers living in captivity than in the wild. There are an estimated 5,000 captive tigers, around 94% of which live in poor conditions, in the United States. Further, there are an estimated 8,000 tigers living on Asian tiger farms, most of which are used for the trade in tiger parts, like bones, teeth, and fur.
Tiger Conservation: How You Can Help
Perhaps the single most important part of protecting wild tigers is protecting their habitat. Tigers cannot exist without a place to live and without prey to hunt. Further, supporting the elimination of the trade in tiger parts is crucial to saving both wild and captive tigers. Recently, the United States House of Representatives passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which further protects tigers.
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