How Many Wild Tigers are Left in the World?

Published on: November 17, 2019

Vana is a mom who has made it her mission to raise awareness on how we can keep Thai wild tigers numbers from dwindling. By Vanasobhin Kasemsri When I took up a job with a big conglomerate — whose mission is to help double the numbers of wild tigers in Thailand by the year 2022 — my first question to my boss was WHY? My initial impression was that there were still so many tigers left in the world. My family had just seen hundreds of them at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo over the weekend! My boss asked me whether those tigers should be allowed to hunt on their own or be let out to live in the Thai jungle. I paused for a long moment and did not really understand where his question was headed. “How many ‘wild’ tigers are left in Thailand?” my boss asked me. He added, “And should tigers be locked up in cages and raised in farms like cattle?” He knew I was stuck and had no real answers for him. He left me with several books and pamphlets to read and asked to meet again the following day. I had much reading to do and could hardly sleep that night. As I caught up on the reading, the facts became clear to me.  

The facts

There are only 150-200 tigers living in the Thai forests but around 1,500 tigers are raised in captivity. Many are drugged so that tourists can get up close to have photos taken with them. Many are sold in illegal trade markets where every part of a tiger’s body can be used either for traditional medicine, to wear as a protection amulet, or for decoration. Sadly the medicinal benefits of tiger parts have been proven by many scientists to be just folktales. There are less than 3,900 tigers left in the wild around the world and Thailand is one of 13 countries that still have tigers running wild. I decided that it is crucial to share this information with the next generation. So many people may not realize that the number of tigers living in the wild is depleting rapidly. Tigers living in the wild are currently listed as endangered. Some species are on the verge of extinction. As our natural resources are quickly disappearing due to deforestation and humans requiring more land to farm or live on, having wild tigers in our forests (not in cages or in tiger farms) is so vital to our ecosystem. This is a true indicator of how healthy our forests are as tigers are the largest predators and without them roaming in the forest, we will have an overpopulation of grass and herbivores which could eventually make our healthy forests disappear.  

Creating awareness

In August 2018, I spearheaded the idea of creating awareness by bringing the “Save the Tigers” roadshow to schools around Bangkok. The roadshow has been kindly supported by many companies and non-profit organizations who think alike on the emerging need to educate. The kid-friendly show, which has now travelled to 12 schools so far, consists of display boards with interesting facts about tigers, activities to create appreciation for tigers, and speakers from non-profit organizations, such as WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and DNP (Department of National Parks), telling their stories about their work with tiger conservation. Little did I know that I was raising my children to believe in false facts and that they assumed that there is nothing wrong in our world to have tigers raised in captivity.   After hearing the talks and viewing the exhibition boards some may ask whether any of the students would remember any of the information or not. But I soon realized that it did help to create the awareness needed. Some students became sounding boards and passed on their messages to family members. They went home excited that day after the roadshow and spoke about the event and what they had learned. On one occasion, I had to go to a work meeting where one of the attendees recognized my company’s logo on my shirt and complimented me on the good job that the company was doing in helping to raise awareness to his children. The roadshow is still going strong and it will be traveling to three more schools in Bangkok this year! Before having taken up the job as “Save the Tigers” roadshow leader, I was a homemaker with 2 young children. As part of their weekend entertainment, I would take them to zoos, the tiger farms, and different touristy places with tigers in chains. Little did I know that I was raising my children to believe in false facts and that they assumed that there is nothing wrong in our world to have tigers raised in captivity. Now I know better. There are many other animals that are also on the verge of being endangered and we can all try to start doing something about it. According to a recent documentary I watched by National Geographic — we can not save the whole planet on our own, but if we all play a part in one way or another, the world will be a better place for our future generations — our children.  

About the Author

Vana, a Thai national born in the US, has lived overseas for a significant part of her life. She has been a BAMBI volunteer and member since 2014, and now works for B Grimm Company, overseeing their charity and conservation projects including “Saving the Tigers”. Vana enjoys spending her free time exploring Bangkok and its surrounding provinces with her family. She hopes to share her views on nature conservation and her travel experiences with newcomers to Thailand and BAMBI members.
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