The tiger - more specifically the Siberian tiger - is the largest of all the big cats. It is a heavily muscled, powerful predator that stalks and ambushes large prey, camouflaged by its stripy coat. Unlike other cats, tigers are good swimmers and often cool off in lakes and streams during the heat of the day. Sadly, they have been pushed to the edge of existence through hunting and habitat loss, with three of the nine subspecies already extinct, and the other subspecies at high risk.
Where do tigers live?
We know that tigers are territorial, generally solitary, and require large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements.
Tigers once ranged widely across Asia, and from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. But disastrously, over the past 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range, and have been extirpated from southwest and central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia! The main reasons behind their dramatic population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and poaching by hunters for their body parts and pelts.
Unfortunately it is now probably far too late to turn back the tide of tiger decline as the world has already lost three sub-species of tiger. However, there is some good news as the remaining six tiger subspecies have now been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
The global population in the wild is now estimated to only number between 3,062 to 3,948 individuals, with most of the remaining populations only occurring in small pockets isolated from each other. If circumstances do not change radically over the next few years, then we could be one of the last generations to see tigers in the wild.
What do tigers eat?
The exquisite grace and power of the Bengal tiger evokes both awe and fear. Capable of killing animals over twice its size, it is one of nature’s most feared predators. The South China Tiger, the Indochinese Tiger, the Sumatran Tiger, and the Malayan Tiger make up the rest. Sadly, there were 9 species of tiger previously known but the Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers have all become extinct in the past 70 years.
Although scientists no longer classify tigers into subspecies, these names are still commonly used to describe "races" of tigers from different regions.
The Siberian Tiger
Creeping to within 10-25 metres of its victim, the tiger will suddenly pounce and grab the prey by the back of its neck with its feet still planted firmly on the ground.
Small prey are killed by this bite to the neck, but larger prey are brought to the ground before being killed by a suffocating bite to the throat.
What do the other subspecies eat?
A tiger will attack its prey from the side or the rear. Like the Siberian tiger, it will kill small prey with a bite to the back of the neck, and larger prey by a suffocating bite to the throat.
Game is the tigers favourite food. They will hunt wild ox and buffalo. An adult male ox can weigh 900kg which is twice the weight of an average tiger. Although it is clearly capable of taking down such a beast, more often than not the tiger will attack young or old animals as they will put up less of a resistance.
In certain areas, the tigers prey is chital deer, wild boar, monkeys and lizards. Tigers will sometimes even attack porcupines. However, this can be very dangerous. Why? Because if any of the sharp quills become lodged in the face, eyes or paws they can cause infections which in extreme cases can result in death!
1. Over the past 100 years, tigers have lost 3 subspecies to extinction and 93% of their historic range. and are now locally extinct from southwest and central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia.
2. A tiger's stripes are like a human fingerprint, no two tigers have the same pattern.
3. Driven by its need for meat, a tiger can kill the equivalent of 30 buffaloes a year.
4. A tigers roar can carry for over 2km at night.
5. The largest cat in the world is the Siberian tiger, weighing over 100kg more than the Bengal tiger.
6. Tigers purr. Domestic cats purr on the in-breath and the out-breath while tigers purr only on the out breath.
7. Unlike most other cats, tigers often eat meat that has begun to putrefy.
About half of all tiger cubs die before they reach maturity.
8. After running down and catching its prey, the tiger always starts feeding from the rump first.
9. Tigers are so strong that they are capable of dragging prey that is so heavy that it would take several grown men to move.
10. Legend has it that tigers can attract deer by mimicking their calls. Unfortunately, this is not true. In fact, any deer sounds that tigers utter are now believed to be completely incidental.
11. A healthy diet for the tiger consists of 7-10 kg of meat a day. In fact, a Siberian tiger is capable of eating up to 50kg in a single sitting! A skill worth having when you need to sustain your self in a climate that can be as cold as - 45 degrees Celsius.
12. The heaviest Siberian tiger on record weighed in at an incredible 385kg.
To deter intruders, all tigers mark their territory with strong smelling urine and secretions which serve as a warning to other tigers nearby. Shredding the bark of trees is another way to mark territory.
13. Tigers usually cover their faeces with earth. They will also drag the remains of a kill to a thicket and loosely bury it with leaves, then return to it later
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Photos care of http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/28/siberia-tiger-pakistan-sharif and http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soubor:Tiger_chasing_a_deer_cropped.jpg and http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/tigers/about_tigers/tiger_habitat/ and http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/2011/09/30/south-china-tiger-conservation-program-mourns-big-cat-lost-in-tragic-fight/