Tigers could become extinct within a decade, if we don't act now
New Delhi, Jan 17: Tigers could become extinct within a decade due to poaching and habitat destruction, a charity has warned.
The demise of tigers has been so dramatic that a total of 96 percent of the world's tiger population has disappeared in the last 100 years - with as few as 4,000 believed to be in the world today.
Unless conservation efforts are stepped up these critically endangered striped predators might well go extinct in their habitats.
The Wildlife Conservation Society-led study published in the journal Biological Conservation says conservation authorities must engage with people in the cities, while continuing to support site-level protection efforts around tiger source sites.
The study marks the first-of-its-kind analysis that overlays human population scenarios with the fate of the endangered big cats.
Before the 20th century, some experts estimated that there were more than 1,00,000 tigers living in the wild; today that number has dwindled to between 3,000 and 4,000.
At the same time, over the last 150 years, the human population of Asia has grown from 790 million to over four billion, with dire consequences for tigers and other wildlife. But these trends are changing.
The main reason behind the dwindling numbers is thought to be a dangerous combination of poaching and habitat destruction, both of which are man-made problems.
In 2010, 57 million people lived in areas defined as "tiger conservation landscapes" that contained all of the world's remaining wild tigers.
However, by 2100, depending on population trends, as few as 40 million people could be sharing space with tigers, or it could be as many as 106 million, says the study.
"Urbanisation and the subsequent human demographic transition is arguably the most important historical trend shaping the future of conservation," said lead author Eric Sanderson, Senior Conservation Ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
"If we want a world with tigers, forests, and wildness to persist beyond the 21st century, conservation needs to join forces with groups working to alleviate poverty, enhance education for girls, reduce meat consumption, and build sustainable cities," said co-author and WCS Senior Vice President of Field Conservation Joe Walston.