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Black Market Tigers Video
A Wildlife Crimes Unit coordinator talks about fighting a dangerous trade in Indonesia.
Global Tigers Programs Video
Tigers are in trouble, but Dr. Ullas Karanth and his team in India are finding smart ways to save them.
Tiger Photo
Once ranging from the Caspian Sea to the Russian Far North, the world’s largest cat species now exists in only 7 percent of their historical range.
©John Goodrich
Wildlife Crimes Unit Slideshow
Tigers are fast disappearing in the wild, due in large part to increasing illegal wildlife trade across Asia.  Our Wildlife Crimes Unit is working to support the arrest and prosecution of poachers and wildlife traders so that we can ensure a future for these cats in some of their last strongholds. Take a look at what WCS conservationists working throughout tiger territory have come across in their surveys and patrols.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Police display confiscated tiger skin with other seized animal skins and body parts in Indonesia. The country is Southeast Asia’s largest exporter of wildlife, both legal and illegal.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Many of the wildlife pelts and other items that are poached in Indonesia are part of complex trade chains, which often terminate in illegal markets in China.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
The Wildlife Crimes Unit provides technical assistance to Indonesian police conducting anti-poaching raids.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
This tiger was caught in a snare in northern Sumatra, a hotspot for the big cats in Indonesia, and therefore a draw for poachers.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
In addition to tigers, tons of turtles are also exported from Indonesia on a weekly basis, and about 1.5 million wild-caught birds are sold in a market every year in Java.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger bones in Sumatra are sold as souvenirs and talismans, and ground up or boiled down for use as ingredients in traditional medicines.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger pelts are considered a status symbol by some and many wealthy people consume tiger products for purported medicinal qualities.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
WCS conservationists in India calculate tiger numbers by setting up remote camera traps that photograph the big cats in the wild.
©Eleanor Briggs
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
The camera trap technique is also used in the Russian Far East, where this Siberian tiger was photographed.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger scat contains a unique DNA signature that gives researchers another way to accurately identify and count individual animals.
©S. Gopinth
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
In the protected areas of India’s Western Ghats region, where WCS has worked for over 20 years, tiger populations are holding steady.
©Ullas Karanth
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Help the Wildlife Conservation Society save tigers in the wild by making a donation.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Solitary and beautiful, the tiger prowls alone and marks its territory carefully, patrolling each corner of its domain methodically every few weeks. Expert hunters who kill their prey with a bite to the throat or back of the neck, tigers are carnivores that eat large mammals like deer, pigs and buffalo. In order to satisfy their large appetites—and their offspring—these big cats must have access to wide swaths of land and large populations of prey.

Historically, hundreds of thousands of tigers roamed across Asia, but their numbers have plummeted dramatically. Today, tigers occupy only 7 percent of their historical range. The largest tiger population is now in India, but there are wild populations in numerous Asian countries. WCS is working throughout the continent to protect this astounding mammal, which can survive in diverse habitats that include tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, grasslands, evergreen forests, and snowy, rocky terrain.

Fast Facts

Scientific NamePanthera tigris
  • Tigers can measure up to 9 feet long.
  • Tigers are very vocal and make friendly “chuffing” noises to communicate with one another.
  • A tiger’s tail hangs loosely when relaxed and twitches when nervous or agitated.


The tiger is endangered, and  in many countries entire local populations have gone extinct. As ever-growing expanses of Asia are carved up for roads, farms, logging interests, and urban development, tigers are losing their natural habitats. Hunters who kill wildlife either for human consumption or illegal trade have depleted populations of deer and other prey, making food scarce. Logging roads give people easier access to places where wild tigers live, further compromising their fragile environments. Throughout its range, the tiger is killed for its stunning pelt, bones and other body parts, many of which are used as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicines. Even though the sale of tiger parts is illegal, a hunter can receive thousands of dollars per cat. In 1920, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, their numbers hover in the low thousands.

WCS Responds

WCS has long-standing conservation programs in nine countries where tigers live: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, and Thailand. Our goal is to help save the populations of this big cat in the wild and improve their living conditions. We have worked with government officials and business leaders for the creation of protected areas and other ambitious conservation projects, provided technical and financial support for law enforcement geared toward apprehending poachers, and collaborated on science-based projects aimed at effectively managing prey populations and human activity in tiger habitats. We also partner with local volunteers who help restore tiger habitats by, for example, removing illegal hunting traps in northeast China. In 2006, WCS and Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, together launched Tigers Forever, an ambitious collaborative effort that aims to increase tiger numbers by 50 percent at eight WCS tiger landscapes across Asia over 10 years.

WCS Projects

Indonesia’s Wildlife Crimes Unit

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit helps intercept the trade in illegal tiger parts on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The island’s populations of tigers and other endangered species are under siege by poachers who sell the animals into complex trade chains. These chains often terminate in illegal markets in China and other parts of East Asia.

From the Newsroom

It's All in the StripesJanuary 13, 2015

As with human fingerprints, no two tigers have the same stripe pattern. This enables Dr. K. Ullas Karanth and his team to count the number of tigers ‘captured’ by their many camera traps.

Tiger Traders Busted in IndonesiaOctober 30, 2014

With the help of WCS's Wildlife Crimes Unit, the Indonesian authorities arrested two traders allegedly involved in the shipment of one whole tiger skin, two stuffed tiger paws, one stuffed tiger head, and a tiger claw. The arrests took place near Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, one of the most important sites globally for Sumatran tiger.

Counting Tigers by Their StripesMarch 6, 2014

In this video, Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science-Asia, explains a new and improved method to study tiger populations – counting their stripes.

More Than Hope for Tigers January 10, 2013

After revealing that tigers are roaring back in three landscapes where WCS works, our CEO penned a blog for the Huffington Post relaying his recent trip to India. While there, Dr. Samper observed a wild tigress--whose presence reflects a significant increase in tiger numbers in South India. 

Tigers Roar Back December 24, 2012

Despite dangerously low global numbers, tigers are rebounding in three significant landscapes where WCS operates. Success in India, Thailand, and Russia fosters hope for these iconic big cats.


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