Endangered species

Nine species of tiger

IUCN, the world’s largest and oldest organization in the field of environment, aims to contribute to the conservation and sustainable management of nature and natural resources in an international perspective.
IUCN keeps a list of all animals. This is called the Red List©.

IUCN_Red_List.svgThere are nine tiger species in the Red List© identified:

  • Caspian Tiger
  • Amur tiger (also widely known as Siberian tigers)
  • South China tiger
  • Indochinese tiger
  • Malayan tiger
  • Sumatran tiger
  • Javan tiger
  • Balinese tiger
  • Bengal tiger
Threatened or extinct

There are two leading institutions that determine which plants and animals must be protected. Besides IUCN there is CITES. CITES is an international agreement between governments that makes sure that international trade must not lead to the extinction of plants or animals.

The Red List© also indicates whether or not animals are threatened. It uses several groups:

EX = Extinct
EW = Extinct in the wild
CR = Critically Endangered
EN = Endangered
VU = Vulnerable
NT = Near Threatened
LC = Least Concern

Three tiger species are now extinct (EX):

  • Caspian Tiger
  • Javan tiger
  • Balinese tiger

One tiger species hasn’t been seen for more than 20 years in the wild, beside an experiment in South Africa. The South China tiger was last seen in China since the early 90s but still is listed as CR (critically endangered). Why this tiger species is listed CR is unknown. Perhaps CITES doesn’t want to offend China?

The other tiger species live in critical conditions (CR or EN).


The IUCN Red List© is an important piece of input for the annual CITES convention. CITES determines which animals (and plants) have a certain status. This status ensures that governments know what they should and should not do (especially customs). So CITES has determined that the tiger is an endangered species and forbid all trade. Trade is also prohibited in tiger products.

The sad thing is that not all countries adhere to these (voluntary) CITES agreements. China in particular is a pain in the ass for many people in nature conservation and certainly to the people that love tigers.

Discussion about subspecies

Scientists are regularly quarreling about the number of subspecies. Recently they found out that the Caspian and the Amur (or Siberian) tiger are (or better were) genetically identical. Either this means the Caspian tiger actually never died or never existed.

There have been also many discussions about the Malayan tiger, which -according to some scientists- genetically would not differ sufficiently from the Indochinese tiger to be a different sub-species.

Other scientists tell that the tiger that lives in the Sundarbans (mangrove area in India and Bangladesh) actually should be a separate subspecies. And some Chinese scientists claim the white tiger should be a separate subspecies too.