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Tigers Panthera tigris are mammals of the Felidae family and one of four "big cats" in the Panthera genus. They are superpredators and the largest and most powerful living cats. The Indian subcontinent is home to more than 80% of the wild tigers in the world. The tiger's beautiful blend of grace and ferocity led the legendary author and conservationist, Jim Corbett to remark - "The Tiger is a large hearted gentleman with boundless courage...".

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The biggest "big cat" of all: Tigers are the largest and heaviest cats in the world. Although different subspecies of tiger have different characteristics, in general male tigers weigh between 180 and 320 kg (400 lb. and 700 lb.) and females between 120 and 180 kg (264 lb and 400 lb). The males are between 2.6 and 3.3 meters (8 feet 6 inches to 9 feet 1 inch) in length, and the females are between 2.3 and 2.75 meters (7 ft 6 in and 9 ft) in length. Of the living subspecies, Sumatran tigers are the smallest, and Amur or Siberian tigers are the largest.

Striped fingerprints: The pattern of stripes is unique to each tiger, 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. 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. 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.

Vision: Few large animals have color vision as capable as that of humans, so the color is not as great of a problem as one might suppose. Tigers have a cluster of cones in their retina but it is believed that they are used more to enhance daytime vision than for color vision.

Weak white tigers: Breeding two white tigers is the only way to ensure white cubs, because white tigers are actually a mutant form of tiger that would have trouble surviving in the wild. This fact leads to inbreeding by unscrupulous breeders. The inbreeding causes several common flaws: cross-eyes due to poor development of the visual pathways in the brain,a weakened immune system, clubbed feet, poor kidney development, and a corked backbone or twisted neck. These tigers also have a reduced fertility rate, perhaps due to a sort of tiger depression.

Only in Tigers are an endangered species, and their small numbers are now only found in small areas of Asia. Most tigers live in forests or grasslands, for which their camouflage is ideally suited, and where it is easy to hunt prey that is faster or more agile. The largest species (the Siberian/Amur) is found in snowy forest areas.

Tigers love water: Among the big cats, only the tiger and jaguar are strong swimmers; tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Tigers are also known to kill prey while swimming.

Usually solitary hunters: Tigers often ambush their prey as other cats do, overpowering 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 the 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. They eat primarily medium to large sized herbivores such as deer, wild pigs, and buffalo, but they also take smaller prey on occasion. Tigers are very solitary, even while hunting, but researchers have witnessed tiger cooperation to take down a very large animal like a buffalo.

Leapers: In the wild, tigers can leap as high as 5 m and as far as 9-10 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, massive and heavily muscled, are used to hold tightly onto the prey and to avoid being dislodged, especially by large prey such as gaurs. A single tremendous blow of the paw can kill a full-grown wolf or heavily injure a 150 kg Sambar deer.

The only real tiger enemy: Humans are the tiger's only serious predator, who often kill tigers illegally for their fur. Also, their bones and nearly all body parts are used in traditional 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. A century ago, there were approximately over 100,000 tigers in the world; now numbers are down to only around 5,000. All subspecies of tigers have been placed on the endangered species list.

Maneaters: The majority of tigers never hunt humans except in desperation. Probably only 3 or 4 tigers out of every 1000 tigers kill a person as prey in their lifetimes. The usual maneater is an injured or ill tiger which can no longer catch its usual prey and must resort to a smaller, slower target. Like most other large predators they generally recognize humans as unsuitable prey because of the danger of being hunted by a predator (a human possessing spears or firearms) even more dangerous. The Sundarbans mangrove swamps of Bengal have had a higher incidence of man-eaters, where some healthy tigers have been known to hunt humans as prey.

Where to go now? Because of humans taking over more and more tiger habitat, the areas tigers can live are still decreasing... Adult tigers are solitary and fiercely territorial animals. A tigress may have a territory of 7 square miles while the territories of males are much larger, covering 23-40 square miles. Male territories may overlap those of many females, but males are intolerant of other males within their territory. Unfortunately tiger territory is shrinking further and further due to human encroachment. Tigers only occupy 7% of their historic range, and even within the past 10 years, their territory has shrunk by 40%.

All tiger species are endangered. In fact, of the original nine tiger subspecies, 3 have already passed out of existence. Currently, there are only a few thousand tigers left in the world. The South China tiger is the most critically endangered, with less then 50 captive tigers left. No South China tigers have been seen in the wild for the last 20 years. This tiger is the evolutionary precursor to all the other tiger subspecies.

Siberian or Amur tiger Panthera tigris altaica: These are the largest and heaviest tigers, located in cold Siberian climates. Their native range has been severly reduced, so the name has changed to Amur recently; due to habitat loss they are only living in the Amur River Valley instead of Siberia. They can weigh up 800 pounds and are extremely powerful, and have very thick fur (distinguished by a paler golden hue and a smaller number of stripes) and a layer of fat on their belly and flanks up to 2 inches thick for protection against the freezing temperatures - down to minutes 45 degrees Farenheit!

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 island's 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.[4] 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. The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of all living tiger subspecies. 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.

Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris Found in parts of India and SE Asia, mostly living in varied habitats - grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry decidious forests and mangroves. The Indian government's estimated population figure for these tigers is between 3,100 and 4,500, 3,000 of which are found in India alone. However, many Indian tiger conservationists doubt this number, seeing it as overly optimistic. The number of Bengal tigers in India may be lower than 2000 , as most of the collected statistics are based on pugmark identification, which often gives a biased result. Even though this is the most 'common' tiger, these tigers are under severe pressure from both habitat destruction and poaching.

Indochinese tiger Panthera tigris corbetti: These tigers are darker colored and 20 percent smaller than Bengal tigers - about the size of lions.. They are found in parts of SE Asia - 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.

Malayan tiger Panthera tigris jacksoni is exclusively found in the southern (Malaysian) part of the Malay Peninsula, was not considered a subspecies in its own right until 2004. It is also the national icon in Malaysia, appearing on its coat of arms and in logos of Malaysian institutions.

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 first of all tiger subspecies. This subspecies is one of the smallest tiger species.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 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 South China 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. Currently, there are breeding efforts to reintroduce these tigers by 2008.

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 2–2½ 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 territory, which they acquire by fighting and eliminating a territorial male. Over the course of her life, a female tiger will give birth to an approximately equal number of male and female cubs.

Very endangered!

A world without tigers? Researchers have estimated that tigers may be completely gone by 2010. The tiger population is in the low thousands. Hopefully this magnificent cat will be able to survive the odds- countries are trying to help the tigers by making laws against killing them and stopping sale of products made from their parts. There are international projects working to protect wild tiger habitat and people can also try to donate what they can to protect it, educate others and help save the tigers!


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 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Mammalia

 Order: Carnivora

 Family: Felidae

 Genus: Panthera

 Species: Tigris