are perhaps the most magnificent of the big cats. They are also
one of the most endangered. At the turn of the century, there
were probably over 100,000 tigers roaming the forests of central
and southern Asia. There are now only about 6,000. Three of
the eight sub-species of tiger are already extinct.
Panthera tigris tigris
Panthera tigris virgata
Panthera tigris altaica
Panthera tigris sondaica
Panthera tigris amoyensis
Panthera tigris balica
Panthera tigris sumatrae
Panthera tigris corbetti
from a table compiled by Peter Jackson, Chairman, Cat Specialist
Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission. Most estimates are
live in many types of forest, from the mangrove swamps of Bangladesh
to the coniferous forests of the Russian Far East. The tiger
range states are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India,
Indonesia, Laos (PDR), Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea,
Nepal , Russian Federation, Thailand and Vietnam. Nearly half
of the world's remaining tigers live in India and it is here
that the tiger has the best chance of long term survival. Dense
vegetation, a good prey base and minimum human interference
are essential for the tiger's well-being.
are too big and heavy to chase prey over long distances. They
hunt by stalking, then making a final pounce when they have
got as close as they can. Their orange coloration allows them
to blend with the dead leaves and grass of the forest floor,
while their black stripes break up their outline, helping to
disguise their approach. Unlike lions, they usually hunt singly.
Hunting tends to take place between dawn and dusk. Tigers are
less active during the day and may lie satiated in the shade
or in a pool near the remains of a kill. Tigers often cover
an unfinished meal with soil and leaves and return to it later.
can kill prey which exceed their own weight. In India, deer,
wild boar, jungle ox and even young elephants and rhino of up
to 450kg (1,000lbs) are eaten. In Siberia, the chief prey species
are wild boars, moose, wapiti and deer. They may also eat bears
and wild goats. They can eat over 30kg (70lb) of meat in a single
night. A large kill may be needed only once or twice a week.
In the meantime, tigers snack on peacocks, crabs, turtles, fish,
lizards, small birds or even locusts or fruit.
tigers have large territories which encompass the territories
of several females. The size of a territory depends on the amount
of prey available and can vary from 30 square km for females
in the Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal, to 520 square km
for male tigers in Siberia. The tigers mark their territories
by spraying urine and pheromones from a gland near the anus.
Male tigers know when a female is in mating condition by checking
her scent marks.
are usually three cubs in a litter, which are born after a pregnancy
of 14 to 15 weeks. The cubs stay with their mother for two years,
during which time she teaches them to hunt. When they are very
young, the cubs stay in single file behind their mother and
it is thought that her striped tail and the large white spots
behind her ears act as beacons of the cubs to follow.
male tiger is not usually involved in bringing up the cubs,
though occasionally a male has been seen sharing a kill with
his off-spring and mate. At two years old, male tigers must
look for a vacant territory, or find one occupied by an old
or sick male, which they can challenge. One of the female cubs
may be allowed to remain within her father's territory, but
any other daughters must look for space within the territory
of adjacent males.
contrast with the careful nurturing received by wild tigers,
cubs born in captivity are usually abandoned or eaten if not
immediately removed by zoo keepers. Hand-reared cubs can never
return to the wild as they have no opportunity to learn to hunt
and cannot survive independently of humans.
at the top of the food chain, like the tiger, need more space
than other animals, especially if they are territorial. Conserving
wild tigers therefore protects the habitat of many other animals,
as well as safeguarding essential ecological processes, such
as water an nutrient cycling.
evolution, predators have helped to control the number population
sizes of other species. Tigers keep the number of herbivores
is kept in check and are themselves constrained by the amount
of prey available. This interaction between tigers and prey
helps to keep the forest healthy; with the number of herbivores
under control, but not depleted, the forest vegetation is likely
to thrive - provided humans do not over-exploit it.
will be dispersed but new growth will not be prevented by excessive
grazing pressure. Healthy vegetation protects and nourishes
the soil, preventing erosion, The soil filters and purifies
the rain water and safeguards the water table, on which many
species, including human beings, depend.
the tiger acts as the guardian of many other creatures. A healthy
wild tiger population is an indicator of the well-being of the
About one tiger is killed by poachers every day. The bones
are used in traditional Chinese medicine, even though reputable
practitioners use alternatives. The bones are traded in Tibet
and northern India for shatoosh, the fleece of the Tibetan
antelope, which is also threatened by extinction because of
this trade. Most tiger medicines are made in China, but they
are sold illegally throughout the world.
Loss and Degradation: The human population is increasing and
deforestation is continuing apace throughout the tiger habitat.
Large scale developments such as mining, dams and urbanisation
are destroying the tiger's home. Prey species are also declining
in some areas, decreasing the chances of tiger breeding successfully.
Tigers are sometimes snared or poisoned in retaliation if
they prey on livestock. Persecution is likely to increase
as the tiger's prey and habitat are eroded, bringing the tigers
into increasingly close contact with humans and their livestock.
BJWDF USA has spent over $10,000 on equipment and training for
the protection of wild tigers in Cambodia and Thailand.
Donations to date include:
- Video cameras to document poaching and forestry related crimes.
Training course in Thailand at Khao Yai National
Park for Bokor National Park assistant chief and 5 head rangers
on Tiger conservation techniques.
- Community outreach on tiger conservation awareness around
Bokor National Park
BJWDF USA has helped produce an informative
book about tigers and their conservation.