Three things to remember about the tiger:
- it is the largest living felid,
- it is the only striped cat,
- it is in trouble.
- Scientific Designation: Panthera tigris
- Endangered Status: Endangered (EN)
- Lifespan: 8-10 years in the wild
- Weight: 91-423 kg
- Length: 1.9-3.7 m
The tiger is feared as a powerful predator and man-eater, yet it is admired for its beauty, courage, and strength. Much of its beauty comes from its fur and markings. The fur’s background color is reddish orange to ochreous. The insides of the limbs, belly, chest, throat, and muzzle are white or cream-colored. Then, the flanks and shoulders are marked with dark vertical stripes that vary in width, spacing, length. The single or double stripes extend onto the belly. Stripe patterns differ from one side of the cat’s body to the other. Black stripes against a dark gold background break up the tiger’s body outline and act as camouflage, blending into forest patterns.
The body is long and lithe. Tigers are noticeably taller and more muscled in the chest and forelimbs than in the hindquarters. In fact, the hindquarters look almost puny compared with the front parts.
Usually maintaining the role as the dominant predator, tigers will eat almost anything they can catch, from frogs to elephant calves and everything in between, including birds, fish, mice, moose, monkeys, and other carnivores (bears, leopards, lynx). In essence, the tiger will kill any animal it finds in a vulnerable position. Only a few animals seem immune to tiger predation, such as mature rhinoceros and elephants. In areas undisturbed by humans, tigers can be found hunting at any time of day or night. The species is solitary and individuals hunt and live by themselves.
Even so, tigers do require a large supply of prey, enough cover for stalking, and ready access to water. Interestingly, tigers can swim well and often spend most of the daytime lounging half-submerged in streams and ponds.
The geographic distribution of the tiger is patchy throughout Asia. Not tied to a particular habitat type or temperature regime, it inhabits a variety of environments, such as tropical lowland evergreen forests, monsoonal forests, and mangrove swamps.
Distribution map courtesy of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), compiled in 2015 by Panthera.
Threats to the Tiger
Today, three of the eight tiger subspecies are extinct. Threats to the tiger species include bone harvesting by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), conflict with humans, commercial poaching, a declining prey base due to over-hunting, and loss of habitat. Maintenance of present habitat is crucial to the tiger’s future, along with protection from killing by humans.
The tiger is classified as Endangered (EN) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected under appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
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