How Climate Change is Affecting the World’s Tigers

There is no disputing the fact that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the planet. It affects so many parts of our life and the world’s human population must do more to tackle this pressing issue. In a relatively short time, the fine balance between man and nature has shifted, with nature coming off worse in favour of humans living well above their environmental means.

This century has seen several species rendered extinct, something that has been definitively attributed to global warming. The World Wildlife Fund has stated that just a 3°C increase in temperatures will have a devastating effect on many ecosystems. To make matters worse, many species already fighting for survival live in areas that are vulnerable to climate change. The animals can’t adapt as quickly as the phenomenon is occurring.

The number of wild Tigers has decreased by up to 97% in the last 100 years, and this is believed to be due to four main factors, all of which are caused by climate change.


The Sumatran species, in particular, is close to extinction, with deforestation of its habitat cited as the main cause. Felling trees has become common practice in Indonesia, in an effort to increase the number of unsustainable palm oil plantations. Not only does the deforestation cause climate change, but also it reduces habitat and leaves the big cat more exposed to illegal trafficking.

Rising Sea Levels

India is famous for its Bengal species, but this huge continent will lose them completely if rising sea levels are not addressed. As the sea levels encroach, coastal habitat decreases and, for the big cat, which relies on the extensive mangrove forest for its survival, this is catastrophic. Higher waters are destroying this area, known as the Sunderbans, by drowning all in its way, but also by polluting the fresh water with salt – leaving the animal struggling to find new sources. They migrate to higher grounds, where they meet another problem in the form of humans.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are definitely on the increase and experts are in little doubt of the prime cause. Siberian Tigers live in areas where there has been an increase in wildfires, and a longer, hotter and drier season is the newest threat to its habitat.

More frequent storms are occurring, causing flooding and destroying crops, leaving displaced farmers seeking out areas further from home in which to make a living. This often means moving into big cat territory. Conflict then escalates as a result.

Climate change also has a huge impact on the food sources of the Tiger. Travelling large distances is not a problem for these agile beasts, but in the quest to find food they often move into villages and communities, which again causes conflict.

Temperature Change

The Tigers of Siberia and Russia are really suffering from the planet’s increasing temperatures. They favour hunting in pine forests, but many of those have been cut down in favour of spruce trees, reducing prey species. Sadly, with fewer than 600 Siberian Tigers left, it is predicted that they will be extinct within the next 100 years.

While the future is definitely going to be a challenge for Panthera tigris, awareness of their plight is increasing. In India, in particular, there are several excellent conservation schemes in place to protect them. More local people are getting involved and many National Parks have excellent facilities to support Tiger travel in India, which helps invest in the future of these beautiful creatures.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Tiger travel. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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Author: Desiree Michels