The wild tiger population has been on the decline for the last century,. However, due to global efforts to double the number of tigers, populations are slowly starting to rise. Countries such as Nepal, India, Bhutan, Russia and China are starting to see an upward trend. Latest reports suggest 3900 tigers remain in the wild, though this is a sad number when compared to the 10 - 12,000 tigers estimated to be in captivity around the world.
Subspecies: Amur, Bengal, Indochinese, South China, Malayan, Sumatran (Extinct: Java, Caspian, Bali)
Distribution: Eastern Russia, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, China
Habitat: Temperate/evergreen forest, tropical rainforest, mangroves
Territory: 20km to 400km
Length: Between 6 to 10 feet (depends on subspecies and gender)
Weight: Up to 220 to 660lbs (they are the largest wild cat)
Speed: Up to 65km/h
Gestation Period: 100 days
Diet: Obligate carnivore
Lifespan: 14 to 18 years (18 to 25 in captivity)
Tigers left in the wild: Approx. 3900
Coat: Tigers coats are made up of two layers - the outer layer is longer providing the camouflage, while the shorter inner later provides insulation.
Stripes: Tigers have a striped coat which helps them to camouflage while hunting. Similar to our fingerprints, the stripes on a tigers coat are never the same as each other allowing them to be identified by their stripe pattern. There are often more than 100 stripes on a tiger and these stripes are not just on the fur, but the skin too.
Claws: Tigers have large curved claws that retract into sheaths to protect them when walking. They uses these claws to grab prey. Tigers can often be seen scratching on trees to keep them clean and sharp.
Eyesight: Tiger eyesight is similar to humans during the day, but at night it's about six times better. This helps them to stalk their prey - a necessity as tigers are crepuscular (active during dusk and dawn) and nocturnal.
Teeth: Tigers have 30 teeth. These include four large canines as well as small incisors as well as back teeth that are used for shearing meet. Tigers lose their baby teeth at about one year old. Similar to humans, their teeth wear down and break as they age.
Body: Tigers are strong and have powerful legs that allow them to reach high speeds over short distances.
Water: Unlike other cats, tigers love water. They will often sit in a pool to help cool down. They're also good swimmers.
Sex: Similar to many other mammals, male tigers are significantly larger than females. Tigers are sexually mature at between three to four years old.
Breeding: When tigresses come into oestrus they secrete from their urinary glands so that males know they are ready to breed. Females also become more vocal during this time. Tigresses can have litters from 1 to 5 cubs though in the wild usually only about half a litter survives. Cubs will stay wth the mother for two years before leaving to fend for themselves.
Social groups: Tigers are solitary animals usually only meeting up to breed. A male's territory will overlap 2 - 3 females, but the female territories will not
Territory: Territories are large, based on the abundance of prey. Tigers will mark their territory by spraying, raking and scratching. Tigers will be seen sniffing trees and other marking points to see which other animals have been around.
Tiger talk: Tigers are very vocal and have a range of different noices. Tigers roar, growl, snarl and hiss. They do not purr, but they chuff instead which is a sound made by blowing out of the nose and is generally a friendly greeting.
Hunting & Diet
Diet: Tigers are obligate carnivores which means they have an all meat diet. In the wild tigers eat a range of prey animals including wild boar, deer, rodents, birds, fish and even crocodiles. Tigers can feast on a kill over a period of days, eating up to 18kg in a single sitting. However, they will then go for a few days with no food.
Hunting: Tigers are opportunistic ambush hunters, stalking their prey carefully before killing it with a bite to the throat. Often they will kill the animal by breaking its back during the pounce, but their throat bite can also suffocate their prey. Tigers are not always successful in hunting. In fact tigers are usually only successful in one out of ten hunts.
Threats and Conservation
Threats: Tigers face a number of threats due to conflict with humans. The biggest threat is poaching because of longstanding myths believing tiger parts have healing properties. Tiger parts are very valuable on the black market. Wild tigers are also under threat due to habitat loss. As the human population grows, more land is needed for agriculture and urban use pushing wild tigers into smaller pockets. Food resources are affected meaning that a smaller number of tigers can be sustained in a single area. Human-tiger conflicts occur when tigers seek additional prey in the form of cows owned by local farmers. Because of these threats, tigers now live in 7% of the area they used to inhabit.
Conservation: Conservation projects are either in-situ (where the tigers live), or ex-situ (in a zoo). In-situ efforts focus on understanding why tigers are endangered and on finding ways to work with local governments to help locals live alongside tigers. Ex-situ involves captive breeding programs where zoos carefully match up tigers to ensure the strongest match is made.