Tigers are the biggest of all cats.
There are 6 different kinds of tigers.
Most tigers live and hunt alone.
Tigers catch and eat meat.
Baby tigers are called cubs.
What are tigers?
Tigers are large cats. They are one of the most threatened species of animal on earth.
There used to be nine subspecies, or breeds, of tiger, but three have become extinct in the last century:
the Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers are extinct.
The South Chinese tiger is almost extinct, perhaps already is.
Today there are six different subspecies of tiger:
|Amur, or Siberian, tiger||Found in eastern Russia mainly, with some in northeastern China northern North Korea.||Lives in thick forests that are covered with snow in winter||Paler colouring, with brown rather than black stipes. White ruff of fur round neck. Largest cat in the world||Up to 3.3m head to tail, about 300kg||Less than 350 in the wild|
|Bengal tiger||Found in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma (Myanmar)||From cold Himalayan forests to hot swamps to wet forests of north India to dry forests of Rajasthan||Reddish orange fur with narrow black , grey or brown stripes. Underside is creamy white||Up to 2.9m head to tail, about 140 kg||Approx 3, 500 in the wild|
|Indochinese tiger||Mainly in Thailand, but also Burma, Cambodia, Laos, southern China, Vietnam, parts of Malaysia||Live in forests in hilly to mountainous areas||Reddish orange to dark yellow fur with black or dark grey stripes||Up to
2.7m head to tail, about 115kg
|Less than 1000 in the wild|
|Malay, or Malayan, tiger||Found only in the Malaysian part of the Malay peninsula.||Hilly forest areas because lowland forests have been cleared for rubber and palm oil plantations.||Appearance similar to Indo-Chinese tiger: it was not until 2004 that it was classified as a different subspecies.||Up to
2.7m head to tail, about 120kg
|About 500 in the wild.|
|South China, or Amoy, tiger||Found in central - eastern China||Moist forests||Short broad stripes widely spaced||Up to 2.5 metres head to tail, about 150 kg||20-30 in the wild The most critically endangered of the tigers, and possibly already extinct
|Sumatran tiger||Found only on the island of Sumatra||Lives in forests, lowland to mountain areas||It is the darkest and smallest of the tigers, suitable for its rainforest habitat||Up to 2.4m head to tail, 90 kg||Critically Endangered, about 240 left in the wild|
South China tiger
The different tiger subspecies live in a variety of habitats. Some live in forests in southern Asia, some in the woodlands of Siberia. Others are found in mangrove swamps and in tall grass jungles. Some are found in the mountains where it is snowy.
Appearance and Behaviours
Most tigers are orange-brown or dark yellow with dark brown, grey or black stripes. There are patches of white fur on their faces and ears. There is a white mark on the back of each ear so that from behind it looks like the tiger is watching, particularly in a shadowy forest habitat. This is a defence marking. Tigers have white fur on their stomachs. A tiger's stripes helps it to get close to prey when it is hunting. The stripes camouflage the tiger, helping it to blend into the grasses and edges of forests where it lives. Each tiger's pattern is different, like human fingerprints.
Did you know?
A white tiger is not a subspecies. The original was captured in India, and was a true 'accident', or mutation, but was then bred to produce white cubs. White tigers today are generally part Siberian and part Bengal. They are bred in captivity by in-breeding animals that are closely related. White tigers would not survive in the wild because they are not camouflaged like gold and black tigers are. In attempting to breed white tigers, there are many birth defects and cub deaths.
The largest tiger is the male Amur or Siberian tiger which can grow to be 3.3 metres long and weigh up to 300 kilograms. The smallest is the female Sumatran tiger which grows to be about 230 centimetres long and weighs up to 110 kilograms.
A tiger's tail, which helps it keep its balance when running fast, is about a metre long.
Most tigers live and hunt alone and mark their territory by spraying the ground and plants with urine (pee) and by leaving scratch marks on trees.They are excellent swimmers, and can swim across wide rivers. They keep cool by spending time in water, the only cats to deliberately do so.
Tigers are carnivores, or meat eaters. They hunt mainly between sunset and dawn. They stalk their prey, get as close as possible and then race at the animal from behind, pouncing on it and biting the neck or throat. When the prey is dead, the tiger drags it to a safe place and eats it. If the prey is a large animal the tiger can feed on it for a few days. Not every hunt is successful, so tigers don't eat every day. They hunt and eat many different kinds of animal such as deer, wild pigs, birds, monkeys, leopards, bears and wild cattle. Tigers eat up to 18 kilograms of meat at one time.
A Bengal tiger chasing prey
About 103 days after mating with a male tiger, the female gives birth to a litter of 2 or 3 cubs, but sometimes up to 7. She looks after the cubs, feeding them milk for about 8 weeks. Later she teaches them to hunt. The cubs stay with their mother for up to three years.
Siberian tiger cubs
Conservation Status and threats
Tigers are facing extinction. The South China tiger may already be extinct. Numbers of other subspecies are very low. One major threat is that in some countries medicines made of tiger body parts are considered to be almost magical. Tigers are illegally killed for body parts, fur and meat. Although there is an international ban on killing tigers, illegal medicines made from tiger body parts sell for large sums of money, so poachers continue to kill tigers. Loss of habitat is also a big threat, and there is less and less space in the wild for tigers to live. What is left of wild habitat is often small patches, like islands, which makes it hard for tigers to move about and meet each other for breeding.
|World Wildlife Fund (WWF) set 'camera traps' in forests in central Sumatra. These forests are in danger of being cut down even though they are supposed to be protected. Sensors on the hidden cameras are triggered by movement, and in May 2011, WWF reported that a higher number of tiger images were captured, including two mothers with cubs and six other tigers. The reason for the high number could be because the researchers are getting better at choosing spots for the cameras, but it could also be because the area where tigers live is shrinking so the same number live in a smaller space.
Click here to see this rare footage of Sumatran tigers in the wild, including some playful cubs. However, there are less than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, and those on the film are in danger of losing that habitat where they live and play.
What can we do to help save the tiger from extinction? Get your class and teacher involved!
Go here for more information about tigers:
If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham,S. & Thomas, R. Tigers [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2010)
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