for National Geographic News
Tigers have far less room to roam than they did just a decade ago, according to a comprehensive new study.
The critically endangered big cats now live in 40 percent less habitat than they did ten years ago, the study finds.
"If Wall Street traded in a commodity called tiger futures, today would be Black Thursday, because the news is pretty grim about how much tiger range occupancy has declined in ten years," said Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist for the international conservation group WWF in Washington, D.C.
"Another decade like the last one would be catastrophic for tigers."
Tiger range has been shrinking for decades. The cats are now believed to live in only about seven percent of their historic range.
Their numbers have been decimated by habitat loss, hunting, and a thriving illegal trade in their skins and body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines.
Estimates suggest that 5,100 to 7,500 tigers still live in the wilda small remnant of the estimated 100,000 animals that thrived at the dawn of the 20th century.
"Tigers won't disappear next year, but they are on a treacherous trajectory," said Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and lead author of the study.
"And now is the time that we can reverse that."
Tiger Successes Provide Hope
Despite the bad news, the study's authors hold out hope that the cats can be saved.
The authorsfrom WWF; the Wildlife Conservation Society; the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; and the Save The Tiger Fundoutlined an international plan for tiger protection.
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