Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world.
Tiger territory once stretched from Turkey to the Russian Far East and just a century ago, before the terrible toll of hunting and habitat destruction, 100,000 tigers inhabited the wilds of Asia.
Now their descendents hang on in a tiny fraction of their former range, prowling fragmented pockets of habitat where keeping enough tigers alive to breed is increasingly difficult.
Three of the nine tiger subspecies (Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers) became extinct during the 20th century, leaving only the half dozen living species featured in this gallery.
Recent studies show in just three tiger generations (21 to 27 years) the big cats’ population has shrunk by 50 percent and their range has also been halved.
Shrinking space and rampant poaching for traditional Chinese medicine present a formidable challenge to the future of wild tigers.
About half of all living tigers are Bengal tigers (pictured here), sometimes called Indian tigers because most live in that nation.
Others are in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. Given space and prey Panthera tigris tigris can thrive in many types of forests or grasslands, and the Bengal is the only subspecies that also inhabits mangrove forests, in the Sundarbans island group in the Bay of Bengal.
The Jaguar (Panthera Onca) is the third-largest of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and the only living member native to the western hemisphere.
Growing up to 160 kg (350 lb), Jaguars are distinguished by rosette-emblazoned fur, comparatively short tails and an exceptionally powerful bite that enables them to successfully prey on armored reptiles such as caimans and turtles.
(images via: Fanpop and WWF/Go Wild)
Jaguars are stated to be Near Threatened by the IUCN and while their current range is roughly half of what it once was, these often solitary big cats can still be found from southern Arizona in the United States down to Paraguay and northern Argentina.