Vanishing act of the big cat

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THERE are only about 5,000-7,000 tigers left in the wild. Often feared, tigers are under increasing threat because of habitat destruction, poaching and the illegal trade in tiger fur and bones for traditional Chinese medicines. Although such trading is banned in the countries where the tiger exists, a black market thrives.

Three species of tiger are thought to have become extinct. The Bali tiger was extinct by the 1940s, the Caspian tiger by the 1970s while the Javan tiger was reported to have disappeared by the 1980s. Other species under threat are the Bengal tiger, Indochinese tiger, Siberian (Amur) tiger and the Sumatran tiger. It is predicted that before the next Chinese Year of the Tiger arrives, some or all of these may have ceased to exist.

Conservationists fear the next species to vanish will be the South China tiger. It is thought that only 20 or 30 are left, and it is so rare that the WWF (World Wide Federation) has never managed to obtain a photograph of it.