The tiger is the largest cat in the world. Admired and feared, it has been a part of the stories and art of humans for thousands of years, and today it is a very popular animal around the world. Their beautiful striped fur makes them easy to recognize from all other felines, and their mighty roar makes them detectable from miles away. Tigers (Panthera tigris), are native to the Asian continent and have six subspecies:
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Siberian Tiger (P. t. altaica), Indochinese tiger (P. t. corbetti), Malayan tiger (P. t. Jacksoni), South China tiger (P. t. amoyensis) and Sumatran tiger (P. t. sumatrae). Many years ago they were distributed over a vast area extending from Turkey to the east coast of Russia, but now it is much smaller. Several subspecies became extinct, such as the Bali tiger (P. t. balica), the Java tiger (P. t. sondaica) and the Caspian tiger (P. t. virgate)
All subspecies are ruthless predators endowed with strength, skill and keen senses. They have been seen as symbols of power, but also as aggressive and dangerous animals. Regardless that, they are an important part of the world’s biodiversity
Tigers are native to Asia; although today they can be seen all over the world in captivity, their natural habitat is only on that continent. Today they are present in 13 countries: Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Russia, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam. It is possible that lately the populations of these cats have been reduced to only eight countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, and Thailand. They live in several types of habitat, all of which must have three requirements: proximity to a fresh water source, the abundance of prey and dense vegetation. Many live in tropical forests, as well as temperate forests, the evergreen forests of Assam and eastern Bengal, swamp forests with mangroves and other types of forests. Some dwell in grasslands, savannahs, and rocky terrains. Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) are unique because they thrive in the cold Russian forests, usually covered with a thick layer of snow; these Tigers have a denser coat than the other subspecies to survive in that cold habitat. Most tigers to protect and shelter settle inside caves, grottos, large trees and even the tall vegetation
Tiger’s body is built for hunting. Far from being the fastest or biggest animals in the world, they have key adaptations that make them efﬁcient hunters to meet their needs. An adult tiger can reach up to 1.22 meters high to the shoulders and up to 3.90 meters in length, and weigh more than 300 kilograms, dimensions that exceed those of lions, jaguars, and pumas. They have a ﬂexible spine that ends at the tip of their tail and acts as a ﬂexible central support for their paws and thorax. Their tail, long and slightly thick, helps them to maintain the balance when walking and running, especially when making abrupt turns. They have a robust skull, and large sharp teeth anchored to the jaws, which they use to pierce the skin and tear the ﬂesh of their victims.
Other lethal parts are their retractable claws in their ﬁngers. The hind legs are longer than the front legs, but all have soft pads. Their beautiful coat has orange tones in the background and thick dark stripes that run to the tip of the tail. Each tiger has a particular striped pattern, so there are no two tigers with the same coat
Nobody is astonished to know that Tigers have a great appetite, but it can be a surprise to discover that they do not strictly eat every day. Adults can spend up to two weeks without a snack, although when they eat, they can consume large amounts of food.
Tigers are carnivorous mammals. Their diet consists of a wide variety of prey but depends on the animals available in their particular habitat. Some common victims are wild boars (Sus scrofa), Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), water buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis), marsh deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), Sika deer (Cervus nippon), saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica),
porcupines (Order Rodentia) and hare (Family Leporidae). If they do not ﬁnd food, they are sometimes forced to eat carrion or attack domestic livestock. When they prepare to hunt, they mainly rely on their ear and sight. The tigers hunt by ambush. After detecting prey, they walk stealthily to approach it and lurk from a discreet distance, usually camouﬂaged between the tall and dense grass. In a quick and accurate movement, they catch their victim by surprise and give it a powerful bite on the neck or the head to kill it quickly.
Most cats are solitary creatures, and Tigers are no exception. During most of their adult life, they roam and hunt alone, although while cubs they spend a lot of time with their mother and during the breeding season, they have to establish relationships with the opposite sex to mate. They are more active during the night, for that reason they do not usually interact with diurnal species. However, activity patterns may vary depending on the season and the activities of their prey. Something that characterizes Tigers is that they are very territorial and maintain exclusive household ranges where they have easy access to food. The males’ home ranges are larger than those of females, since, although they do not live in a herd, the male gender is dominant. To secure their territory and warn others that they cannot enter, a tiger leaves scent marks or claws on trees or rocks. In addition to these visual and olfactory marks, Tigers watch the limits of their territory to avoid the entrance of intruders. When they are not inspecting, they prefer to spend time resting
Males and females are polygamous, so they mate with several individuals throughout their life after reaching sexual maturity, which happens between three and ﬁve years of age. Both genders can mate at any time of the year, but when they are in heat, females vocalize and leave scent marks more frequently to capture the attention of males. If a couple meets, they move in circles, vocalize and growl, and then separate, in a ritual of recognition and establishment of trust. Subsequently, the male places himself over the female and copulates for a short time. The couple can stay together for a few days, after which each one takes its way.
Tigers develop inside their mother for an average of 105 days. Typically, a female gives birth to a litter of two or three offspring, but they may have up to seven in a single delivery. As they are born blind and completely defenseless, the mother shelters her puppies in a den, feeds them with breast milk and teaches them to hunt for some months until they are ready to live on their own.
Fames subspecies of Tigers
The Bengal tiger or ”Royal Bengal Tiger”
The Bengal tiger or royal Bengal tiger is one of the most common subspecies. It distributes in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, and it is a frequent visitor to savannahs and mangrove areas in these countries. Most of its population lives in India and Bangladesh. It is the second-largest tiger reaching a total length of 240 to 310 centimeters and a height of 90 to 110 centimeters to the shoulders. It can weigh up to 325 kilos. Their physical appearance is not very different from that of other tigers since it shares with them the large and muscular body, the sturdy legs and the long tail. Panthera tigris Tigris hunts many native ungulates of the Indian subcontinent, usually species such as chital (Axis axis), gaur (Bos gaurus), sambar deer (Russian unicolor) and marsh deer (Rucervus duvaucelii). Bengal tigers are victims of illegal hunting, which along with habitat reduction and destruction are one of their most serious problems.Panthera tigris altaica
Panthera tigris altaica This subspecies,
which is also known as Amur tiger, is the only one that inhabits the most eastern regions. It is mainly located in Siberia, where it has adapted to a cold environment often covered with snow. Their fur is paler than other tigers but thicker and longer to protect them from low temperatures. Their dimensions are exceptional; when adults they can weigh more than 300 kilograms, although females tend to be smaller than males. Most of these animals inhabit small areas of Russia. Their distribution range is very large and they have to travel considerable distances to ﬁnd food. Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), long-tailed goral (Naemorhedus caudatus), Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and other deer species predominate in their diet. Surprisingly, it is known that they rarely hunt bears. Litters are usually two to four cubs, and the mother is in charge of their care. When they grow up and acquire skills to hunt and live alone they separate from it, but females take longer to do so.
Tigers are among the most threatened animals on the planet.
The species has been considered endangered for several years, mainly due to human activities such as poaching and illegal trade of parts of their body. Habitat loss, the effects of climate change, and conﬂicts with people for the areas linked to activities such as deforestation, land conversion for agriculture and livestock. In fact, for centuries the distribution of these cats covered a much larger area, but as a result of the threats mentioned above, the area is becoming smaller. The trade of their coat, bones and internal organs, for traditional Chinese medicine remedies is a disturbing activity, which keeps reducing their population.
In 2009 it was estimated that there were around 3,200 tigers worldwide, while in 1998 there were between 5,000 and 7,000 tigers, although in recent years there has been a slight increase. Today, the conservation of tigers is an issue of interest to many, because of their importance for biodiversity.