TIGERS




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.

At the beginning of the 20 th century, it was estimated there were over 100,000 tigers in the wild.

They were were found throughout Asia, from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Siberia and the Indonesian islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra.

Today wild tiger populations now number at less than 3500 individuals. Furthermore there are no longer wild tigers in western Asia and those that still exist are restricted to isolated pockets in the remaining parts of their range.

Where do tigers live?

We know that tigers are territorial, generally solitary, and require large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements.

However, as they are also indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on earth, wild tiger populations have caused significant conflict with their human neighbours. Because of this, tiger populations - as well that their habitats - have been in decline for decades.

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 south-west and central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of south-east 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.

Today, they range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. The extent of area occupied by tigers is now estimated at less than 1,184,911 km2 (457,497 sq mi), a 41% decline from the area estimated in the mid-1990s.

Unfortunately it is now probably far too late to turn back the tide of tiger decline as the world has already lost three subspecies 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.

Special adaptations

The Siberian tigers winter coat lacks the rich red stripes of the tigers that live in warmer climates, but its white coat helps to hide it in its snow covered habitat. Because of the extremely low temperatures that Siberian tigers have to survive, it can grow a longer and thicker coat compared to other tiger subspecies. It is also unique amongst its relatives because it develops a layer of fat, sometimes 5 cm thick, on its flanks and belly which helps to insulate it against the freezing winds crippling temperatures.
For related articles click onto the following links:
ALL ABOUT LIONS
Lion Facts
THE BENGAL TIGER
THE SABER-TOOTHED TIGER
THE TASMANIAN TIGER
TIGERS
TIGER FACTS
WHAT ARE THE NINE SUBSPECIES OF TIGER?
WHAT DO TIGERS EAT?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPECIES OF TIGER?
WHY DID THE SABER-TOOTHED TIGER BECOME EXTINCT?

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