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Tigers

Tiger Big Cat

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain

Bengal Tiger

Tigers (Panthera tigris) are mammals of the Felidae family and one of four "big cats" in the panthera genus. They are predatory carnivores and the largest and most powerful of all living cat species. The Indian subcontinent is home to more than 80% of the wild tigers in the world. Tigers breed well in captivity, and the captive population in the United States may rival the wild population of the world.

Tigers of the World

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Most tigers live in forests and grasslands, for which their camouflage is ideally suited, and where it is easy to hunt prey that is faster or more agile. Among the big cats, only the tiger and jaguar are strong swimmers; tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Tigers hunt alone and eat primarily medium-sized herbivores such as deer, wild pigs, and buffalo. However, they will also take larger or smaller prey on occasion. Humans are the tiger's only serious predator and often kill tigers illegally for their fur. Their bones and nearly all body parts are used in Chinese medicine for a range of purported uses including pain killers and aphrodisiacs. Poaching for fur and destruction of habitat have greatly reduced tiger populations in the wild, and it has been placed on the endangered species list.

Physical traits

Although different subspecies of tiger have different characteristics, in general male tigers weigh between 180 and 325 kg (400 lb and 715 lb) and females between 100 and 180 kg (220 lb and 400 lb). The males are between 2.6 and 3.3 metres (8 ft 6 in and 10 ft 9 in) in length, and the females are between 2.3 and 2.75 metres (7 ft 6 in and 9 ft) in length. Of the living subspecies, Sumatran tigers are the smallest, and Amur or Siberian Tigers are generally the largest. However, recent studies show a decline in average bodyweights for tigers, especially in the Amur (sometimes referred to as Siberian) subspecies. This may be caused by excessive poaching, a weakened prey base and habitat decline. Individual tigers living in the wild weighing significantly more than 270 kgs (around 600 lbs) have not been seen in quite a while. The legendary 700 lb+ tigers of the past are no longer to be found outside of zoos or circuses.

The stripes of most tigers vary from brown or hay to pure black, although White tigers have far fewer apparent stripes. The form and density of stripes differs between subspecies, but most tigers have in excess of 100 stripes. The now extinct Javan tiger may have had far more than this. The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal, and thus could potentially be used to identify individuals, much in the same way as fingerprints are used to identify people. This is not, however, a preferred method of identification, due to the difficulty of recording the stripe pattern of a wild tiger. It seems likely that the function of stripes is camouflage, serving to hide these animals from their prey. Few large animals have colour vision as capable as that of humans, so the colour is not as great of a problem as one might suppose. The stripe pattern is found on a tiger's skin and if you shaved one, you would find that its distinctive camouflage pattern would be preserved.

Malayan Tiger

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Malayan Tiger

Several obscure references to various other tiger colors have also been found, including most notably the reference to the "blue" or slate-colored tiger.

Tigers have the longest and biggest canine teeth of all the wild cats. A tiger's canines are larger and longer than those of a similar-sized lion. The reason for this is likely due to the habit of preying on large herbivores in its habitat whose bones are thick and large; the tiger's canines have to be strong enough to break the bones of their prey. Moreover, as tigers hunt alone to bring down their prey, they have to work harder than lions, which hunt in groups.

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Hunting methods

Tigers often ambush their prey as other cats do (including the domestic cat). Tigers overpower their prey from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock prey off balance. Once prone, the tiger bites the back of the neck, often breaking the prey's spinal cord, piercing their windpipe, or severing the jugular vein or carotid artery. For large prey, a bite to the throat is preferred. After biting, the tiger then uses its muscled forelimbs to hold onto the prey, bringing it to the ground. The tiger remains latched onto the neck until its prey dies.

Powerful swimmers, tigers are known to kill prey while swimming. Some tigers have even ambushed boats for the fishermen on board or their catch of fish.

The vast majority of tigers never hunt humans except in desperation. The usual man-eater is an injured or ill tiger which can no longer catch its usual prey. Like most other large predators they generally recognize humans as unsuitable prey because of the danger of being hunted by a predator even more dangerous. The mangrove swamps of Bengal are, however, a haven for man-eaters.

In the wild world, tigers can leap as high as 5 m, and as far as 9 m -10 m, making them one of the highest-jumping mammals, perhaps second only to the puma . They have been reported to carry domestic livestock weighing 50 kg while easily jumping over fences 2 m high. Their forelimbs, heavily muscled, are used to hold tightly onto the prey and avoid being dislodged, especially by large preys such as guars. A single tremendous blow of the paw can kill a full-grown wolf or heavily injure a 150 kg Sambar deer.

Biology and ecology

Adult tigers are mostly solitary. They do not maintain strict territories, but their home ranges are often maintained unless threatened by other tigers. They follow specific trails within their ranges. A tigress may have a home range of 20 sq km while the ranges of males are much larger, covering 60-100 sq km. Male home ranges may overlap those of many females, but males are intolerant of other males within their territory. Because of their aggressive nature, territorial disputes can leave both tigers injured. To identify his territory the male marks trees by spraying urine and anal gland secretions on trees as well as by marking trails with scat. Males show a behaviour called flehmen, a grimacing face, when identifying the condition of a female's reproductive condition by sniffing their urine markings.

A female is only receptive for a few days and mating is frequent during that time period. A pair will copulate frequently and noisily, like other cats. The gestation period is 103 days and 3-4 cubs of about 1 kg each are born. The females rear them alone. Wandering male tigers may kill cubs to make the female receptive. At 8 weeks, the cubs are ready to follow their mother out of the den. The cubs become independent around 18 months of age, but it is not until they are around 2-2 1/2 years old that they leave their mother. The cubs reach sexual maturity by 3-4 years of age. The female tigers generally own territory near their mother, while males tend to wander in search of mates before taking over the territory of another male tiger. Over the course of her life, a female tiger will give birth to an equal number of male and female cubs.

In the wild, tigers mostly feed on deer, wild boar, and wild cattle, including gaur and water buffaloes, young rhinos and elephants, and sometimes, leopards and bears. Sambar and wild boar are their favoured preys in India. Young elephants are another of their favourite food items. However, as young calves and juveniles always travel in herds with their mothers and relatives, the possibility for a lone tiger to catch a young elephant is quite low, as the tiger would usually have to deal with the calves' protectors, which would outnumber it.

Tigers prefer large preys such as sambar and gaur because they provide more meat and last for many days, avoiding the need for another hunt. In all of their range, tigers are the top predators and they do not fear from any other carnivores other than the dhole or Indian wild dog, which makes up for strength in numbers. They generally do not prey on large mammals such as elephants, and rhinos, although they will prey on weak young whenever they have an opportunity. However, a hungry tiger will attack anything it regards as potential food.

Of all the land carnivores, tiger is the only species that has been known to charge and take down even full-grown male elephants, one-on-one. For centuries in Asia, especially in Indochina, where elephants used to be utilized in military as weapons, minor ethnic tribes, who are specialized in capturing and training elephants, have the traditions of testing captured male elephants by pressing one against a tiger. If an elephant survives the fight, it is considered ideal for battles. Today, however, due to the depletion of both species, these extraordinary confrontations become exceedingly rare and are hardly ever witnessed by humans in the wild.

Tigers have been studied in the wild using a variety of techniques. The populations of tigers were estimated in the past using plaster casts of their pugmarks. In recent times, camera trapping has been used instead. Newer techniques based on DNA from their scat are also being evaluated. Radio collaring has also been a popular approach to tracking them for study in the wild.

Tiger Cub

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Tiger Cub

Subspecies

There are nine subspecies of tiger, three of which are extinct and one of which is almost certain to become so in the near future. Their historical range (severely diminished today) ran through Russia, Siberia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, China and South-east Asia, including the Indonesian islands. All current tigers are believed to be evolved from the South China Tiger. These are the surviving subspecies, in descending order of wild population:

  • The Bengal tiger or the Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is found all across India in varied habitats - grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests and mangroves. The government's estimated population of these tigers in the wild vary between 3,100 and 4,500; 3,000 of these are found in India alone. However, many Indian tiger conservationists doubt this, and that this figure is overly optimistic. The number of Bengal tiger in India may be lower then 2000 [1], as most of the collected statistics are based on pugmark identification, which often give biased result. The Bengal tiger is also found in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. Even though this is the most 'common' tiger, these tigers are under severe pressure from both habitat reduction and poaching. In 1972, India launched a massive wildlife conservation project, known as Project Tiger, to protect the depleting numbers of tigers in India. The project helped increase the population of these tigers from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,000 in 1990s and is considered as one of the most successful wildlife conservation programs. The average size of a male Bengal tiger is approximately 200-260 kg (475-580 lbs). However, there are recorded instances of shot males weighed more than 300 kg. One large male killed in Nepal in 1942 weighed 318 kg, while another, killed in 1910 in India, weighed 317 kg. The largest Bengal tiger ever shot, was a male 3.3 m in total length and weighed 386 kg; this feline giant was killed in 1967.
  • Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), also called Corbett's tiger, is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Estimates of its population vary between 1,200 to 1,800, but it seems likely that the number is in the lower part of the range. The largest current population is in Malaysia, where illegal poaching is strictly controlled, but all existing populations are at extreme risk from habitat fragmentation and inbreeding. In Vietnam, almost three-quarters of the tigers killed provide stock for Chinese pharmacies. Also, the tigers are seen by poor natives as a resource through which they can ease poverty. Indochinese tigers are smaller and darker than Bengal tigers, about the size of African lions. Males weigh from 150-190 kg on average while females are smaller at 110-140 kg.
  • The Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), exclusively found in the southern (Malaysian) part of the Malay Peninsula, was not considered a subspecies in its own right until 2004. The new classification came about after a study by Luo et al from the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity Study, part of the National Cancer Institute, US. Recent counts showed there are 600-800 tigers in the wild, making it the third largest tiger population behind the Bengal tiger and the Indochinese tiger. The Malayan tiger is a national icon in Malaysia, appearing on its coat of arms and in logos of Malaysian institutions, such as Maybank.
  • The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatran) is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The wild population is estimated at between 400 and 500, seen predominantly in the islandís five national parks. Recent genetic testing has revealed the presence of unique genetic markers, indicating that it may develop into a separate species, if it is not made extinct. This has led to suggestions that Sumatran tigers should have greater priority for conservation than any other subspecies. Habitat destruction is the main threat to the existing tiger population (logging continues even in the supposedly protected national parks), but 66 tigers were recorded as being shot and killed between 1998 and 2000, or nearly 20% of the total population. Sumatran tiger is the smallest of all living tiger subspecies. Adult male weighs between 100-130 kg, female 70-90 kg. Their small size is an adaptation to the thick, dense forests of the Sumatra island where they reside, as well as the smaller-sized prey.
  • The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur, Manchurian, Altaic, Korean or North China tiger, is confined to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai in far eastern Siberia, where it is now protected. Considered the largest subspecies, with a head and body length of 190Ė230 cm (the tail of a tiger is 60Ė110 cm long) and an average weight of around 227 kilograms (500 lb) for males,[20] the Amur tiger is also noted for its thick coat, distinguished by a paler golden hue and fewer stripes. The heaviest wild Siberian tiger on record weighed in at 384 kg,[28] but according to Mazak these giants are not confirmed via reliable references.[15] Even so, a six-month old Siberian tiger can be as big as a fully grown leopard. The last two censuses (1996 and 2005) found 450Ė500 Amur tigers within their single, and more or less continuous, range making it one of the largest undivided tiger populations in the world. Genetic research in 2009 demonstrated that the Siberian tiger, and the western "Caspian tiger" (once thought to have been a separate subspecies that became extinct in the wild in the late 1950s[29][30]) are actually the same subspecies, since the separation of the two populations may have occurred as recently as the past century due to human intervention.[31]

Siberian Tiger

Source.

Siberian Tiger from the Detroit Zoo, USA

  • The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), also known as the Amoy or Xiamen tiger, is the most critically endangered subspecies of tiger and will almost certainly become extinct. It is also considered to be the evolutionary precursor of all tiger subspecies. This species of tiger is one of the smallest of the tiger family. The length of the South China tiger ranges from 2.2-2.6 m (87-104 inches) for both males and females. Males weigh between 127 and 177 kg (280-390 lbs.) while females weigh between 100 and 118 kg (220-260 lbs.). It seems likely that the last known wild South China tiger was shot and killed in 1994, and no live tigers have been seen in their natural habitat for the last 20 years. In 1959, Mao Zedong declared the tiger to be a pest, and numbers quickly fell from about 4,000 to approximately 200 in 1976. In 1977, the Chinese government reversed the law, and banned the killing of wild tigers, but this appears to have been too late to save the subspecies. There are currently 59 known captive Chinese tigers, all within China, but these are known to be descended from only six animals. Thus, the genetic diversity required to maintain the subspecies no longer exists, making its eventual extinction very likely.

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Recently Extinct

Tigers are uncommon in the fossil record. The distinct fossils of tigers were discovered from Pleistocene depositsómostly in Asia. Nevertheless, remains of described tiger fossils 100,000 years old in Alaska. Possibly because of a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska during the ice ages, this Alaskan tiger might be a North American population of Siberian tiger. In addition, scientists discover similarities between tiger bones and those of the American lion: an extinct big cat that dominated much of North America as recently as 10,000 years ago. This controversial observations may lead to the assumption that the American lion was a New World tiger species. Tiger fossils have also turned up in Japan. These fossils prove that the Japanese tiger was no bigger than the island subspecies of tigers of recent ages. This may be due to the phenomenon in which body is related to environmental space, or in the case of a large predator like a tiger, availability of prey.
  • The Balinese tiger (Panthera tigris balica) has always been limited to the island of Bali. These tigers were hunted to extinctionóthe last Balinese tiger is thought to have been killed at Sumbar Kima, West Bali on 27 September 1937; this was an adult female. No Balinese tiger was ever held in captivity. The tiger still plays an important role in Balinese Hindu religion.
  • The Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) was limited to the Indonesian island of Java. It now seems likely that this subspecies was made extinct in the 1980s, as a result of hunting and habitat destruction, but the extinction of this subspecies was extremely probable from the 1950s onwards (when it is thought that fewer than 25 tigers remained in the wild). The last specimen was sighted in 1979.
  • The Caspian tiger or Persian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) appears to have become extinct in the late 1960s, with the last reliable sighting in 1968. Historically it ranged through Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union and Turkey. It was said, such a tiger was last shot dead in the south-eastern-most Turkey in 1970. This tiger was said to be yellow with black stripes.

Traditional Asian Medicine

Tiger parts are used in traditional Asian medicines. Many people in Asia believe that tiger parts have medicinal properties. There is no scientific corroboration to these beliefs, which include:

  • The tail of the tiger is sometimes ground and mixed with soap to create an ointment for use in treating skin cancer. The bones found from the tip of the tigerís tail are said to ward off evil spirits.
  • Crushed tiger bones added to wine serves as a Taiwanese general tonic.
  • Tigerís skin is said to cure a fever caused by ghosts. In order to use it effectively, the user must sit on the tigerís skin, but beware. If too much time is spent on the tigerís skin, the legend says the user will become a tiger.
  • Adding honey to the gallstones and applying the combination to the hands and feet is said to effectively treat abscesses.
  • Burnt tiger hair can allegedly drive away centipedes.
  • Mixing the brain of a tiger with oil and rubbing the mixture on your body is an alleged cure for both laziness and acne.
  • Rolling the eyeballs into pills is an alleged remedy for convulsions.
  • If whiskers are kept as a charm, legend says one will be protected against bullets and have increased courage.
  • One will allegedly possess courage and shall be protected from sudden fright if you wear a tigerís claw as a piece of jewelry or carry one in your pocket.
  • Alleged strength, cunning, and courage can be obtained by consuming a tigerís heart.
  • Floating ribs of a tiger are considered a good luck talisman.
  • The tigerís penis is said to be an aphrodisiac.
  • Small bones in a tigerís feet tied to a childís wrists are said to be a sure cure for convulsions. [1]

Tigers in literature and popular culture

The word tiger is borrowed from Greek tigris, itself borrowed from Persian ([2]). American English Tigress first recorded 1611. Tiger's-eyes "yellowish-brown quartz" is recorded from 1891.

The tiger has certainly managed to appeal to man's imagination. Both Rudyard Kipling in The Jungle Book and William Blake in his Songs of Experience depict him as a ferocious, fearful animal. In The Jungle Book, the tiger Shere Khan is the biggest and most dangerous enemy of Mowgli, the uncrowned king of the jungle. Even in the Bill Watterson comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, Hobbes the tiger sometimes escapes his role of cuddly animal. At the other end of the scale there is Tigger, the tiger from A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, who is always happy and never induces fear. In the award winning A Tiger for Malgudi, a Yogi befriends a tiger. Rajah, a pet of the characters Aladdin and Jasmine of Disney's animated feature film Aladdin, is uncharacteristically dog-like in its behaviour, but even more oddly Tony the Tiger is renowned for his Frosted Flakes and may be the only cat, real or fictional, who thrives on a vegetarian diet.

A stylized tiger cub was a mascot of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games of Seoul with the name "Hodori", and the tiger is one of the most chosen animals to be a mascot for sports teams, e.g. Major League Baseball team Detroit Tigers

Humble Oil, a division of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (Jersey Standard), used a stylized tiger to promote gasoline and the slogan "Put a Tiger in your Tank". Jersey Standard adopted the use of a real tiger in its advertising when it took the Exxon name company-wide in 1972, and the brand kept the tiger mascot as a part of ExxonMobil when they merged in 1999.

Most recently, Yann Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 with his novel Life of Pi about an Indian boy castaway on the Pacific Ocean with a Royal Bengal Tiger.

In the Chinese novel Water Margin, tigers appeared numerous times as attacking travellers. In the Wu Song story he became famous when slaying a tiger with his bare hands who had been terrorizing the local towns nearly a decade. In reality, wild tigers, being dwellers of the jungle, have rarely been found in larger human cities in China, where the idea of a tiger on the street can act as a symbol of paranoia or unfounded fear, giving rise to such idioms as three men make a tiger. The Tiger is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals.

Whilst tigers have been known to eat humans, they generally only do so in times of extreme desperation, such as injury, weakness, or advanced starvation.

World's favourite animal

In a poll conducted by Animal Planet, the Tiger was voted the world's favourite animal, narrowly beating man's best friend, the dog. More than 50,000 viewers from 73 countries voted in the poll. The tiger received 21% of the vote, the dog 20, the dolphin 13, the horse 10, the lion 9, the snake 8, followed by the elephant, the chimpanzee, the orangutan and the whale.

Animal behaviourist Candy d'Sa, who worked with Animal Planet on the list, said: "We can relate to the tiger, as it is fierce and commanding on the outside, but noble and discerning on the inside".

Callum Rankine, international species officer at the World Wildlife Federation conservation charity, said the result gave him hope. "If people are voting tigers as their favourite animal, it means they recognise their importance, and hopefully the need to ensure their survival," he said.

References

  • Jim Corbett, Man-eaters of Kumaon, Oxford University Press, 1946
  • Tom brakefield, Big cats kingdom of might, Voyageur press, 1993
  • [PBS] http://www.pbs.org/edens/bhutan/a_tiger.htm

Wiki Source

Comments

Q. Can you find out if humans use tigers for anything?

A. Unfortunately their bodies are used for medicinal properties in traditional Chinese medicine

Q. How many young do the adult amur tigers produce?
A. Tiger babies - Tiger cubs are born small and helpless, but the mother must leave them alone while she hunts. Tiger cubs donít hunt on their own until they are two years old. A tigress can have a litter of up to seven cubs every two years. In the wild, the mother could not kill enough prey to feed so many hungry cubs, so usually only two survive. Source:San Diego Zoo: This is for Tigers in general

 

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