Big cats to bow out

The game may be up for wild tigers.

According to a report in the June issue of BioScience, the animals now occupy only 7% of their traditional territories, with the areas known to be occupied by the big cats down 41% in the past 10 years. The felines once roamed from the Caspian Sea to Indonesia.

The study, compiled by 16 co-authors including Dr Eric Dinerstein of the World Wildlife Fund, says: “While the tiger as a wile species will most likely not go extinct with the next half-century, its current trajectory is catastrophic. If this trend continues, the current range will shrink even further, and wile populations will disappear from many more places, or dwindle to the point of ecological extinction.”

There are about 5,000 tigers — all of which require a lot of territory — left in the wild, their numbers having been hit by the trade in body parts for medicine as well as humans moving into the animals’ habitat.

The report recommends the establishment of large conservation areas linked by wildlife corridors, as is the case in north-west India and southern Nepal.

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Fast fact: in 2004, the tiger was voted the world’s favourite animal in a poll for the Animal Planet television channel. It beat the dog into second place.

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