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On Tiger Day, A Reminder That There May Only Be 3,200 Left In The Wild
July 29, 2014
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(Photo: ADITYA SINGH/AFP/GettyImages)

Today is Global Tiger Day, an annual occasion to celebrate the iconic big cats and to draw attention to their plight. 

And just how bad is that plight?

According to The Independent, as recently as 100 years ago, there were 100,000 tigers roaming the wilds of Asia. Today, that number is closer 3,200. And already, three subspecies of tigers have gone extinct: the Bali, the Caspian and the Javan.

So what was it that led tiger numbers to drop so precipitously? According to the World Wildlife Fund: habitat loss due to deforestation, and poaching. The trade in illegal tiger parts — used as a status symbol and in traditional Chinese medicine — was banned around the world in 1987 when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species came into effect. But statistics from the wildlife trade monitoring agency TRAFFIC suggest that at least 1,590 tigers were seized between 2000 and 2014.

Global Tiger Day (also called International Tiger Day) grew out of the 2010 St. Petersburg "Tiger Summit," which brought together delegates from the 13 countries where Tigers still run wild: Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, China, Malaysia, Russia, Nepal and Burma.

At the close of that summit, the 13 countries committed to doubling the wild tiger population by 2022 — a goal which has come to be known as Tx2.

“We are more than a third of the way to 2022," Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive Initiative, said in a statement. "We need to move at a faster, more determined pace if we hope to achieve the Tx2 goal."

It's not all bad news, however. Nepal, for example, managed to increase its tiger population by 63 per cent — from 121 to 198 — between 2009 and 2013.

The violence between humans and tigers, of course, also goes both ways. But it's worth remembering that the deadliest human killers are not tigers or lions or sharks or wolves. Not even close, as this infographic from the Gates Foundation shows:

In 2012, author John Vaillant joined George to talk about his book The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, which tells the tale of an animal driven to attack a hunter — and the pressures facing the species.

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