Tigers have undergone a dramatic decline over the past century. At the beginning of the 20th century wild tigers numbered nearly 100,000 in the wild. After decades of over-hunting, poaching, encroachment, and habitat degradation and fragmentation tigers number no more than 3,200 in the wild today. Those 3,200 individuals live in only seven percent of their historic range, which spanned from northeastern Russia, and eastern China, to southeastern Asia.
Tigers were first declared endangered in 1968 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and their numbers have only continued to decline since then. Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) have been studying tiger biology and ecology almost since they were declared endangered. The 1972 Smithsonian-Nepal Tiger Ecology Project identified over-hunting and habitat loss as the culprits behind the dwindling tiger population. Today SCBI scientists are still working to save tigers, and share their expertise with others working to protect tigers.
In 2008 the Smithsonian Institution became a founding member of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), along with the World Bank and many other partners in conservation. GTI is working to mitigate the threats to wild tigers and double the population by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. There has never been an international effort of this magnitude to save tigers; and it is possible that without any action tigers could go extinct in the wild within the next decade. In addition to its work with GTI the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is also doing its own conservation work to save tigers. The Smithsonian’s Tiger Conservation Partnership (TCP) hosts courses in tiger-range countries to help land managers, conservationists, and wildlife law enforcement officials protect tigers.
Smithsonian scientists have been at the forefront of the tiger crisis. They have been working to identify the causes behind the tiger population crash and find solutions that will allow tigers and humans to share the same landscapes since the early 1970s. The Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) is using the research of SCBI scientists and other GTI participants to implement programs to double the number of wild tigers by 2022. The Smithsonian's Tiger Conservation Partnership (TCP) is also working in the field to share its conservation expertise with the people charged with protecting tigers and their habitats.