Tigers & Tiger Holidays

sleeping tigers in India
Common name: Tiger

Latin name: Panthera tigris

Where found: The tiger can be found in scattered and fragmented populations in 13 countries, from India to Southeast Asia, and in Sumatra, China and the Russian Far East. The tiger occurs in a wide range of habitats including; tropical forests, tall grass jungles, coniferous woodlands, mangrove swamps and dry thorn forests. However, in general, the tiger requires dense cover, access to water and sufficient large prey.

Description: Tigers are readily distinguished from other large cats as they are the only striped cat. The tiger have a distinctive reddish-orange to yellow-ochre coat with a white belly and black markings. The dark vertical stripes patterning the body vary in width, spacing and length with the distribution of the stripes being unique to each tiger. The chest, throat muzzle and insides of its limbs are white or creamy and there is usually a white area above the eye which extends onto the cheeks. A white spot is also often present on the back of the ears, and the male tiger usually has a ruff on the head. The long tail is ringed with prominent dark bands. Different subspecies vary in their body size, coat colour and markings with the Sumatran tiger being the smallest and darkest, while the Siberian tiger is the largest and palest. The tiger is exceptionally well adapted for hunting large prey, with short, heavily-muscled forelimbs and long, sharp, retractable claws, it also has a long, slender body, a short, thick neck and broad, powerful shoulders to capture and subdue it large prey. The skull is foreshortened, increasing the force that can be exerted by the powerful jaws and enabling the tiger to deliver crushing bites to its prey.

Behaviour: The tiger is a predominantly solitary creature, spending the majority of the year living and hunting alone. Generally, the tiger will occupy and defend a territory against tigers of the same sex. The male tiger has a larger territory that overlaps several females, with whom the male tiger will then mate. Tigers mark the boundaries of their territory with urine and faeces and spray their scent onto trees, bushes and rock faces. Scent marking also allows tigers to communicate with each other providing information on its identity, sex and reproductive condition. Mating occurs all year round with the female giving birth to a litter of two or three cubs. The cubs are born in a den, blind and helpless and are dependent on their mother’s milk. The cubs learn to hunt and kill from around six months but remain dependent on the female for at least 15 months, after which they will disperse to find their own territory. The tiger is a ‘stalk ambush’ predator, using its stripy coat as camouflage. Hunting mainly occurs at night with its main prey being deer and wild pigs, however the tiger is capable of taking prey much larger then itself including water buffalo. Unlike other cat species, the tiger is a competent swimmer and will readily enter the water and can frequently be found lying half-submerged in streams and lakes in the midday heat.

Status: Endangered

Conservation and threats: Human activities are the principal cause of declining tiger numbers. Hunting was a major cause of mortality in the past, both for trophies and as part of organised pest control measures. Poaching and illegal killing remains one of today’s major threats to the survival of this species, particularly with the growing demand for tiger bones in Oriental ‘medicine’. Habitat loss has occurred throughout much of the tigers range and is severely threatening its survival; as land becomes rapidly developed to meet the increasing demands of the Asian population, tiger populations have become isolated in remaining fragments of wilderness and ultimately die out.

The tiger is included on Appendix I of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning that a quota system limits the legal exports of tiger parts and derivatives. TRAFFIC (the trade monitoring arm of the WWF and IUCN) monitors the level of international trade of tiger products and brings it to the attention of the relevant authorities. The Indian government established Project Tiger in 1973, with the aim of conserving the country’s tiger population. Within India there are currently 21 tiger reserves, although these are increasingly threatened by human pressures on the land. The key to the survival of the tiger is the maintenance of large tracts of adjacent habitat, but protection of this species is complicated by its man-eater reputation and by the threat it poses to livestock. During 2010, the tiger was the focus of substantial conservation effort and investment, culminating in an unprecedented pledge by the 13 tiger range countries to effectively double the number of wild tigers by 2022. To achieve this goal, each of the countries in which the tiger remains will carry out actions to effectively preserve, manage, enhance and protect tiger habitats, and to eradicate poaching, smuggling and illegal trade of tigers. They will also cooperate in transboundary landscape management and in combating illegal trade. The range countries also pledged to engage with indigenous and local communities to work towards the restoration of the tiger to its former range.

References:
ARKive

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