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TIGER FACT SHEET

Tigers 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.




Tiger Subspecies
Minimum
Maximum
Bengal Tiger
Panthera tigris tigris
3159
4715
Caspian Tiger
Panthera tigris virgata
Extinct since 1970's
406
Siberian/Amur Tiger
Panthera tigris altaica
360
n/a
Javan Tiger
Panthera tigris sondaica
Extinct since 1980's
n/a
South China/Amoy Tiger
Panthera tigris amoyensis
20
30
Bali Tiger
Panthera tigris balica
Extinct since 1940's
n/a
Sumatran Tiger
Panthera tigris sumatrae
400
500
IndoChinese Tiger
Panthera tigris corbetti
1227
1785
Rounded Totals
5000
7500

Adapted from a table compiled by Peter Jackson, Chairman, Cat Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission. Most estimates are educated guesses.

Tigers 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.

Tigers 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.

Tigers 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.

Male 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.

There 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Species 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.

Throughout 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.

Seeds 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.

Thus the tiger acts as the guardian of many other creatures. A healthy wild tiger population is an indicator of the well-being of the whole forest.

Threats to Tigers

  • Poaching: 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.
  • Habitat 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.
  • Persecution: 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.

How We Help:
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.