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26 November 2006
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Science & Nature: Animals: Wildfacts

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Tiger leaping through water

Tiger  bathtime

Close-up of a tiger

Tiger in snowy region

Tiger snarling visciously


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Tiger
Panthera tigris

The tiger is the largest of all the cats. Sadly, this magnificent animal has been hunted by humans and has lost much of its habitat. Three of the eight subspecies have already become extinct, and other populations are also at high risk.

Subspecies
P.t.altaica, P.t.amoyensis, P.t.corbetti, P.t.sumatrae, P.t.tigris. Other subspecies are extinct.

Life span
Tigers live for 8-10 years in the wild and 26 years in captivity.

Statistics
Body length: 140-280cm, Tail length: 60-110cm, Shoulder height: 80-110cm, Weight: Male: 180-280kg, Female: 115-185kg.

Physical Description
Tigers are the largest of the cat family, with the Siberian tiger being the largest of the species. They are easily recognisable, with thick black vertical stripes covering an orange body. The belly and throat are a creamy white.

Male tigers have a ruff around the back of the head, which is especially pronounced in the Sumatran male.

No two tigers have the same stripe pattern - each is unique, like human fingerprints. Tiger stripe patterns commonly differ between the two sides of an individual's body.

The last recorded wild white tiger was documented in 1951. This male cub later became the progenitor of most white tigers in captivity. The stripes of white tigers are brown.

Distribution
Tigers range from India to Siberia and South East Asia.

Habitat
Tigers. preferred habitat is forest although they can also be found in grassland and swamp margins. They require sufficient cover, a good population of large prey and a constant water supply.

Diet
Their main prey species are large animals such as deer, buffalo and wild pigs, but they will also hunt fish, monkeys, birds, reptiles and sometimes even baby elephants. Occasionally, tigers kill leopards, bears and other tigers.

Behaviour
Tigers are solitary (with the exception of mothers with cubs) although they may sometimes come together to share a kill. Unlike most other cats, tigers are fond of water and are strong swimmers.

Tigers stalk and ambush their prey. They use dense covering to conceal themselves and sneak up on their prey. When the tiger is close enough it suddenly rushes at its prey and kills it by grabbing the throat or nape of the neck.

Females occupy ranges between 25-1600 sq. km. Males occupy larger ranges which may overlap with the ranges of several females.

More than other big cats, tigers have a reputation as man-eaters. In truth, it is rare for a tiger to attack people. It is normally old or injured tigers who are the culprits, as they are less able to catch their usual prey.

Reproduction
Females will give birth to 2-4 cubs after a gestation of 104 days. They will stay with their mother for up to two years before leaving to stake out their own territories. Males look for territories away from their birth site, but females may sometimes share their mothers territories

As with lions, male tigers may kill a female's cubs if the cubs are the offspring of another male. This ensures that the female will come into oestrus and bear the new male's offspring.

They are active at dawn and dusk.

Conservation status
Tigers are on CITES: Appendix I and are listed as Endangered by the IUCN. They are illegally poached for their fur and other body parts, and suffer from habitat loss. The Chinese tiger (P.t.amoyensis) and the Siberian tiger (P.t.altaica) are under extreme threat of extinction.

Notes
Other than man, tigers have no natural predators.

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