The various subspecies of tigers are under enormous pressure to maintain their numbers in the wild. They face a number of different challenges, but the demise of the existing tiger populations is threatened largely by their living within areas that are now deemed to be rural human habitations.
Although this territory was originally the natural habitat of the tigers, it has, over time, become taken over by local inhabitants.
This poses several major problems to tigers in rural areas all over the world:
Tigers are solitary animals and require their own personal territories in which to live, roam and hunt. Without this territory, they will resort to roaming into the territories of other tigers as well as of humans. With reduced territory, tigers will eventually run out of prey and safe places in which to rear their young.
They will also, inevitably, begin to encroach on rural settlements in search of domestic animals to eat for their own survival, since less territory means fewer options in terms of prey. Some of the older, weaker tigers may even begin to go after the local villagers that stray to the outer limits of their village.
Habitat loss is also brought about as a result of logging (to sell the timber for an income) as well as fires (often caused by careless human beings). Although these are not always directly related to rural settlements, the encroachment of human beings is the major factor that leads to infringement on the lives and habitats of the tigers.
Shortage of Prey
Those inhabiting rural settlements are dependent on the land on which they live to survive. This means that they need to hunt for their own meat, and use much of the land for agriculture. As the population of the rural areas increases, the amount of fauna and flora that they consume needs to increase too. Once humans and tigers start to compete for prey, the few tigers that there are do not stand much of a chance to survive against human invasion and weaponry. The illegal hunting of various deer and wild boar has depleted the potential prey population for the tigers in the habitat, further endangering their numbers.
Although tigers are not avid human hunters, they have been known to attack, kill and eat humans on occasion. This is usually the case when an old, weak tiger is within close proximity to a rural settlement. Out of desperation for prey, this tiger may stalk and kill a lone villager that is walking on the outskirts of their village. The result has been that villagers fear tigers and make concerted efforts to kill them before they can pose a threat.
As a spin-off effect of habitat loss, tigers are being forced into situations in which they are breeding with members of their immediate family. This results in inbreeding depression, which refers to the ever-decreasing fitness of a particular population. As the population weakens, it is less able to produce offspring that is able to fight off disease and illness.