A National Geographic photographer tries to save endangered tigers through his photos

The World

Who doesn't love a tiger?

There’s Tigger and Tony, those cuddly, striped creatures peddling sugar cereal and fun, fun, fun. And then there’s Shere Kahn, the deceptive and dangerous Bengal tiger villain from the "Jungle Book." 

Perhaps he’s a more fitting representation of the creature that has been terrorizing villagers in India this past month. More than 17 people have been killed by tigers in villages across several states of India.

While some villagers insist that these large cats must be killed, conservationists are rushing to their defense.

That's because tigers are extremely endangered. A century ago, there were 100,000 tigers in the wild in India, according to the BBC.

Today there are only around 1,600 left. Around the world, it's estimated just 3,000 remain in the wild.

And it should come as no surprise that the biggest tiger predator is us, humans.

“Tigers are poached for almost every part of their body,” said journalist Sharon Guynup. She and photographer, Steve Winter, know the problem well.

They are authors of the new National Geographic book, "Tigers Forever: Saving the World's Most Endangered Big Cat." They have been photographing and researching tigers in the wild for several years.

“The most valuable part [of tigers] are their bones, which is used in tiger bone wine, a very expensive tonic used in Chinese medicine,” said Guynup. Tiger skin furniture is also popular.

According to Guynup, most of this illegal trade is going to China.

Winter and Guynup hope to raise awareness about the dwindling wild tiger population through their book. It took several years to capture their images of the wild cats.

Let’s just say, photographing tigers is not easy.

It’s too dangerous to go anywhere near the cats, so Winter had to photograph them from on top of an elephant or inside a jeep. He also set up remote cameras with infrared sensors. 

In the end, however, it wasn’t the cats that gave him trouble, but the rhinos. Winter’s jeep was attacked by rhinos several times. Once, a rhino even attacked him while he was riding an elephant.