A century ago, eight subspecies of tiger roamed the planet; three of them are now extinct. A wild population estimated as high as 80,000 in India alone has dwindled to 3,500 worldwide in a span of 100 years.

Pressures from illegal killing, shrinking food supplies, and habitat loss led to extinction of the Bali, Javan and Caspian subspecies. Those problems, along with a demand for tiger parts, continue to threaten the survival of the remaining subspecies. Tiger bone used in some traditional Asian medicines — whose efficacy science has debunked — sells for as much as $115 per pound.

Today, the tiger is classified as Endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Save Vanishing Species stamp (USPS)

Another U.S. law, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act, supports conservation efforts of tigers in its range countries. That 1994 law created the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, which provides funding and technical assistance to support resource management, research and education.

Treaties and laws aren’t enough to save the tiger. Nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and individuals can all help it survive.

Americans are showing their support for wildlife conservation by purchasing the “Save Vanishing Species” postage stamp. The nearly $3 million raised so far has benefitted the Multinational Conservation Species Fund.

The tiger lives on in myth and legend around the world, even in areas where the iconic species is now extinct. What can you do to respect and protect them before it’s too late?