Question of the week:
What do captive tigers die from?
By Ann E M Liljas, on 4 February 2015
Recently I had a chat about tigers with a young visitor at the Grant Museum. As you might know, in early 2015 it was reported that India’s tiger population has increased by 30 per cent from 1,706 tigers in 2011 to 2,226 in 2014. This is fantastic news as the global tiger population is falling due to illegal wildlife trade. But the high death rates in tigers in captive wildlife conservation is a serious concern too and the visitor asked me what tigers in captivity die from. I decided to find out.
Among felines, that’s cats such as lion, tiger and leopard, lions have the highest death rates. Death rates are higher in male felines compared to female and cubs have greater risks of dying than adults: about half of all cubs don’t reach the age of 2 years.
A study in India shows that morbidity (diseases) in felines is a big problem and a common reason of death. According to the study, the most common reason of death in felines is respiratory conditions (23% of all deaths) (for example bacterial diseases that affect the lungs) followed by digestive conditions (19%). Many of the diseases kill felines because they easily spread between groups of animals and it’s difficult to separate infected and non-infected individuals.
Hiring more guards and protecting reserves helps stopping the illegal wildlife trade and increases the number of tigers. This is absolutely crucial but doesn’t prevent and stop deadly infections. To help tigers live longer better facilities and skills are needed to prevent, treat and control for these disease-related deaths.