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        Species Information
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          Tigers

Tiger (Panthera tigris)

Morphology (Physical Characteristics):  The largest member of the cat family, the tiger ranges in size from .9 m (3.01 ft) to 1.2 m (3.94 ft) tall at the top of the shoulder. They can grow from 2. m (7.55 ft) to 3.7 m (12.5 ft) in length, not including a 1 m (3.3 ft) tail, and weigh up to 800 lbs.  With their orange with black striped coat, they are ideally camouflaged for the habitats in which they live.


Distribution/Habitats:  Tigers primarily inhabit the tropical jungles of southeast Asia and India.  However, tigers have evolved over time to survive in a variety of habitats including terrestrial forests and Siberia.  For a map of the tiger distribution click here.


Population:  As little as 100 years ago 100,000 tigers roamed the Earth.  Today only about 6,000 live in the wild with another 12,000 held in captivity at zoos and conservation centers like the Conservators' Center Inc. (CCI).


Ecology and Conservation:  Tigers rely on their jungle and wooden habitats to survive, living off the natural resources such as water, deer, buffalo, and wild pigs to drink and eat while requiring trees and other vegetation which provides cover and allowing their camouflage to be most effect for hunting prey.  Unfortunately as the populations of humans have increased over time, we have started to use up these resources at an incredible rate threatening the very existance of this majestic animal to the point that if we don't take the conservation of this species in our own hands, they won't be around much longer for us to admire.


Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)

Distribution/Habitat:  The most recognizable subspecies of tiger, the Bengal or Indian tiger is endemic (native to) the Indian subcontinent.  They primarily inhabit the deciduous, temperate, and mangrove forests, as well as the grasslands of Bengladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The Bengal can also be found in small areas of southern China, Nepal, and Myanmar.


There are estimated to be between 1300-1500 Bengals found in the wild. For a map of the Bengal tiger's distribution click here.


Conservation/Ecology:  Currently the Bengal tiger is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.  This is the result of the encroachment of humans into their habitats and destroying them with unsustainable harvesting of trees for paper, oil, and rubber. In its habitats the Bengal tiger is at the top of the food chain.


It controls its prey's populations while also providing food for other animals such as scavengers and birds who feed on the left-overs.  In addition, tiger have been illegally hunted for their bones, skin, and meat.  Many Asian cultures believe that the tiger's bones and teeth have healing powers when has lead the this illegal poaching.


White Tiger:  The Bengal tiger is the only subspecies of tiger that can be colored cream or white instead of the usual orange.  This is the result of a recessive gene found within the Bengal tiger's DNA. Pictured in the corresponding image is Arthur, CCI's white tiger.

Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)

Distribution/Habitat:  The Indochinese tiger, also known as the Corbett's tiger can be found in the remote forests and mountainous terrain of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.  Little is known about the current status of their population as access to their habitats is restricted to most, including biologists. as a way of protecting their numbers (WWF).


It is believed that Indochinese tigers are no longer found in China. The last one seen there, was shot and killed by a hunter in 2007. For a map of the Indochinese tiger's distribution click here.


Conservation/Ecology:  One of the most threatened of the tiger subspecies, the Indochinese tiger is vehemently protected.  Extremely strict laws have been passed in the countries that they inhabit in hopes of protecting the subspecies from extiction. The hunter mentioned above was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his callous act.


The forests that these tigers call home have been virtually wiped out of all of this subspecies' large prey (deer and buffalo) by illegal hunting and deforestation.  As a result, the Indochinese tiger is now forced to rely on small prey such as porcupines, macaques and hog badgers to sustain themselves.  This puts the tiger at more risk as it has to expend more energy to travel larger distances from its den to survive.


Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)

Distribution/Habitat:  The Malayan tiger's habitats are the tropical and subtropical forests of penisualar Malaysia and the southern part of Thailand. They are distributed in some of the same areas as the Indochinese subspecies.  In fact, the Malayan has only been recognized as a seperate subspecies since 2004 when it was determined that it was distinguishable from the Indochinese.  The primary difference between the two subspecies is that the Malayan tiger is smaller than its Indochinese cousin. For a map of the Indochinese tiger's distribution click here.


Conservation/Ecology:  There are estimated to be about 600-800 Malayan tigers in the wild making it one of the most abundant of the subspecies along with the Bengal tiger.


The tiger is an important part of the cuture in Malaysia and upon finding out the Malayan was determined to be a separate subspecies the people of that country felt the country should be represented in its scientific name.  Yet, the subspecies was formally named jacksoni after IUCN tiger specialist Peter Jackson, but in Malaysia, the tiger is known asPathera tigris malayensis.  The pride that the Malaysian people have for the tiger is a good sign for their survival in that part of the world as many of their citizens and those in government are involved in tiger conservation programs (Tigers-world.com).


Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)

Distribution/Habitat:  The Siberian, or Amur tiger is found in the coniferous, oak, and birch woodlands of East Siberia, northeast China, and North Korea.


Their generally longer and thicker fur allows these giants of the tiger family to survive in the harsh northern climate.  During winter months the Siberian tiger's coat is lighter in color allowing it to maintain its stealth in the snow, while its summer coat is darker and thinner providing greater camouflage in its woodland habitats. For a map of the the Siberian tiger's distribution click here.


Conservation/Ecology:  The advantage that the Siberian tiger has compared to the other subspecies of tiger is that is roams a vast and remote area of the world void of human interference and healthy ecosystem.


The Siberian tiger primarily preys on Red Deer and Wild Boar that are readily found in the Siberian region.  Other important sources of food for the Siberian tiger include oose, Siberian roe deer, and musk deer.  These tigers have also been known to eat smaller prey such as hares, rabbits, and salmon when their primary sources of food are not avaiable.  On occasion Siberian tigers even prey on Brown and Black bears.


Once on the verge of extinction in the 1940's, the Siberian tiger's population has rebound in recent years as a result of the Russia's now less extensive timber industry and strict anti-poaching laws there numbers have been on the rise.


South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis)

Distribution/Habitat:  The South China tiger is found in only three extremely isolated areas of China. Its habitats consist of montane (non-diverse), sub-tropical, and evergreen forests in the south central part of the country.  For a map of the the South China tiger's distribution click here.


Conservation/Ecology:  The South China tiger is the rarest of all the tiger subspecies.  The IUCN lists it as critically endagered with about 40 held in zoos (all in China) and an uncertaintity of how many remain in the wild (perhaps 10-30), if any at all.  Most biologists feel that they are functionally extinct, meaning that their numbers are so low that there is not enough diversity in their gene pool to effectively procreate and produce healthy offspring.  This is commonly known as inbreeding depression in which the fitness of a given population is reduced as a result of the breeding of related individuals. It may be already too late to save this subspecies.


The South China tiger is one of the smallest subspecies and preys on anything from insects to deer and livestock. This is the primary reason for their peril.


As the Chinese population has exploded over the centuries, people have been destroying the tiger's habitats and all the animals within it including its prey base forcing the tigers to seek out other forms of food sources like livestock and even humans.  As a result, the South China tiger was seen as a man-eater and activly hunted to near extinction.  In addition to this, the tiger's small and scattered population makes it very difficult for the subspecies to find mates for reproduction. Still, conservationists are not giving up hope. Since 1990, China’s State Forestry Administration has been leading the effort to save the South China tiger through the establishment of special Nature reserves for the 10-30 South China tigers thought to be left in the wild.


Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)

Distribution/Habitat:  The Sumatran tiger, the smallest of the the subspecies is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in habitats that range from lowland forests, mountain forests, and swamplands. For a map of the the South China tiger's distribution click here.


Conservation/Ecology:  The Sumatran tiger is very adept on land, in water, and climbing trees.  It hunts a variety of prey including various ungulates (hooved animals) like Wild Boar, Malayan Tapir, deer, and even feeds on smaller prey such as fowl, monkeys, and fish.  Occasionally they are even known to prey on mice when other sources of food are not available.


Their populations are distributed within isolated territories, the majority of them national parks and game reserves.  About 400 individuals inhabit these areas while the remaining hundred or so Sumatran tigers living in unprotected lands that are threatened by man.


One of the major industries in Sumatra is palm oil production.  As a result, much of the island has undergone severe deforestation which has both eliminated a large amount of the tigers' prey base and isolated individuals from potential mates.  Fortunately for this subspecies, in January 2006 legislation was passed creating a 106,000 hectares (261,932 acres) peat swamp forest conservation area in hopes of maintain this tiger's population (Wild Tiger).