Tiger, Panthera tigris

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum:  Chordata

Class:  Mammalia

Order:  Carnivora

Family:  Felidae

Genus:  Panthera

Species:  tigris

Status

Tigers are territorial and generally solitary animals, requiring large territories to support their prey demands. Tigers are endemic to some of the more densely populated places on earth.  Therefore, there are significant conflicts with humans.  Of nine subspecies of modern tiger, three are extinct (Bali, Javan, and Caspian) and the remaining six are classified as endangered (Amur, South China, Indochinese, Malayan, Sumatran, and Bengal).  The main causes are habitat destruction, fragmentation, and hunting.  Tiger products remain a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) worldwide even though they are banned by CITES.  Cory Meacham posits the U.S. has the largest market for tiger products in the world due to problems with enforcement logistics, a large population of Asian-descended peoples, and the higher average affluence of TCM consumers in the U.S. compared to many Asian countries.  Surviving subspecies are under formal protection, but poaching, habitat destruction, and inbreeding depression continue to be threats.  U. S. U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE Status: Endangered.  International Union for the Conservation of Nature Status: Endangered; population decreasing.

Description

Tigers can measure up to 13 feet in length and can occasionally weigh over 700 lbs (Amur tigers).  The most recognizable feature is the pattern of dark vertical stripes that overlay near-white to reddish-orange fur, with lighter under-parts.  The Bengal sub-species occasionally exhibits a white morph wherein the fur is white with dark stripes and blue eyes.  The white morph is a double-recessive trait and is extremely rare in nature.  This trait is not albinism.  White tigers are common in captivity due to selective breeding programs which included significant hybridizing and inbreeding.  Due to the genetic effects of these selective breeding programs, some scientists are arguing to re-classify the white tiger as its own sub-species.

Habitat and Range

Tigers’ historical range once reached from Mesopotamia and Caucasus through most of South and East Asia.  Today, their range is fragmented and extends from India in the west and to China and Southeast Asia in the east.  The northern limit is close to the Amur River in south eastern Siberia.  The only large island inhabited by tigers today is Sumatra.  Tiger habitat has three main features: good cover, close to water, and plenty of prey.  Tigers prefer denser vegetation which is ideal for its camouflage stripes.

Diet

Tigers mostly feed on large- and medium-sized animals such as deer and wild pigs. The largest reported kill was an adult Indian Rhinoceros.  Like other predators, tigers are opportunistic and will eat much smaller prey, such as monkeys and fish.

Reproduction

Females reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years and males reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years.  Mating generally occurs between November and April.  Gestation period is 16 weeks.  Litter size usually consists of around 3-4 cubs of about 2 pounds each which are born blind and helpless.  Females rear offspring alone.  Cubs become independent around 18 months, but it isn’t until they are around 2 ½ years old that they leave their mother.

Behavior

Tigers are usually solitary and territorial animals.  Females may have a territory of 12.5 square miles, while the territories of males are much larger, covering 40 to 60 square miles.  The territories of males tend to overlap those of several females.  Tigers usually hunt at night.  They ambush their prey and then overpower them from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock large prey off balance.

Wow!

  • Most tigers have over 100 stripes.  Each tiger’s pattern is unique, like fingerprints.
  • Tigers are the heaviest cats found in the wild.
  • Though territorial, tigers may share their kills with other tigers.
  • Only one in twenty hunts ends in a successful kill.
  • Tigers can reach speeds of up to 35-40 miles per hour.
  • Tigers are excellent swimmers and can swim up to 4 miles.
  • There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild.
  • Horizontal leaps of up to 32 feet have been reported, although leaps of around half this amount are more typical.