TIGERS

tiger

by Kyla Hume, Kyle Kacsmarik, Neill Laidlaw, Megan Lutz, and Rebecca Singleton

Physical Description

The tiger is the largest cat species in the world; the largest tiger sub-species is the Siberian tiger. The approximate weight of the male is 500 pounds and the female is 300 pounds. The average length of the male tiger is 10 feet and the female 8 feet. The average height of a tiger is 3 feet. The appearance of the tiger depends to a great extent on where the animal lives. Tigers that live in cold regions are paler in colour and larger in size; their fur is long and thick. In warmer climates, tigers are smaller in size and more colourful; they have shorter, thinner fur. The fur on the tiger's back is very thick and the stripes are pale. The colour of the Siberian tiger is yellowish-brown, while the Indian tiger is reddish-brown. The stripes on a tiger are very dark. Like all cats, tigers have sharp claws and teeth.

Habitat

Once tigers ranged from Java, Bali, southern Asia, eastern Turkey, to the eastern shores of Asia on the Okhotsk Sea, to the island of Sumatra, and to the west of India. Today, tigers are not found west of India or on the islands of Java and Bali. The remaining tigers are in China, Southern Asia, and Russia's far east; these are mostly isolated habitats, and tigers are greatly reduced in numbers.

Depending on geographic locations, tigers can be found in a variety of habitats. They range from tropical forests, evergreen forests, ravines, woodlands, mangrove swamps, grasslands, savannas, and rocky country. Some other preferred habitats include dense thickets, long grass or tamarisk shrubs along river banks. Some tigers seem to take a special liking to old ruins for cover. Tigers rely on concealment for stalking and ambushing their prey; they seek areas with ample food, water and moderately dense cover. Tigers are adaptable animals; they can adapt to many different surroundings, as long as they have sufficient water, shade and food.

Behavior

Tigers can move quickly and quietly. Springing with ease, tigers can cover 15 feet (4.5 meters) in one leap; they can jump long distances over obstacles and land. The tiger rarely climbs trees, but swims well.

Food Supply

Tigers usually stalk their prey alone and at night. The maximum kill range for a tiger is 80 feet. To make a kill, the tiger leaps on the animal, biting its neck. It then takes the slain animal to some hidden spot. If it is a large animal, the tiger feeds on it for many days. During this time, the tiger does not kill again. Tigers prey on deer, moose, rabbits, birds, fish, bear, elk, lynx, hares, pigs, cattle, goats, and some smaller animals. The main food of tigers are buffalos, antelopes, and rodents.

Life Cycle and Young

Young tigers or cubs are born from 100 to 112 days after parents have mated. Usually tiger cubs are born between February and May after a gestational period of three and a half months. The cubs weigh under three pounds at birth and are striped. The cubs' eyes open in 15 to 16 days. a litter consists of 1 to 4 cubs, occasionally up to 6, but only 2 to 3 will survive. The mother is responsible for defending her cubs, while the father hunts for food. Tiger cubs are weaned at 4 to 6 months, but depend on their mother for food and protection for another 2 years; the new males entering a female tiger's territory may kill her her cubs. Cubs learn how to kill at 16 months, and they are on their own at 2 to 3 years. The white ear spots help the mother tigers and cubs to keep track of each other in dim forests at night. The life spand of tigers is maximum 15 to 16 years. In zoos, tigers may live to be 20 years old, but they seldom live to be this old in the wild.

Enemies and Endangerment

The tiger has few enemies; besides humans, they are large buffaloes, elephants and bears. Its defence against other animals that may attack are its large claws and very powerful teeth. Tigers are excellent swimmers and climbers, which saves them from floods and other disasters, as well as protect them from their enemies. The tiger is a very cautious animal; it doesn't like to hunt elephants or larger animals than itself, unless it is very hungry, or if its cubs or itself were attacked.

The main predator of the tiger is humankind. They have been trapped, poisoned and hunted heavily by humans not only to eliminate threats to livestock, but also for sport, trophies, skins, and sources of traditional medical products. Superstition has surrounded tigers for centuries; their body parts are used in Asian medicines. Necklets of tiger claws are thought to protect a child from "the evil eye"; tiger whiskers are considered either a dreadful poison (in Malaysia), a powerful aphrodisiac (in Indonesia), or an aid to childbirth (in India and Pakistan); the bones, fat, liver and penis of a tiger are prized as medicines.

Humans have also altered the natural habitats of tigers by their destruction and encroachment on the tigers' feeding range; humans are destroying their habitats by cutting down trees, moving into their preferred locations, polluting the water and air, and hunting their prey.

The tiger population of the Indian subcontinent has suffered a serious decline in the last 50 years. It is estimated that only 200 tigers survived in Nepal, and only 4,000 in India, up from 2,000 in the 1970s. In the 1990s, poaching has escalated in China and Korea, in spite of the Chinese ban on tiger products in 1993. At one point in the 1970s, tigers' numbers had dropped to 4,000 compared to 100,000 in the early 1900s. Today, the world tiger population still only numbers about 5,000 to 7,000 animals. An intense effort is under way to save the endangered tigers. Unfortunately, tigers are still illegally hunted for their fur, bones and other parts to supply markets in China and Taiwan. Tigers have been hunted to near extinction by poachers, and all subspecies have been declared endangered.


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