International Tiger Day 2020
July 29th is International Tiger Day. It is an annual worldwide celebration of TIGERS ~ one of the most impressive animals on Earth. We also take this day to raise awareness about their dwindling numbers and how we can all support programs to protect tigers worldwide.
Tigers are not only the largest species in the cat family, but they are also one of the most iconic animals on the planet! It is believed that over a century ago there might have been over 100,000 tigers that roamed the Earth.
Sadly, their numbers have declined by 95% over the past 100 years. They are only found in small isolated areas of the forest and still remain vulnerable to poaching and hunting. It is estimated that 60% of the world’s tigers live in India. The current count of tigers remaining in the wild is around 3900 individuals. . All tiger species are now deemed to be endangered or critically endangered.
India is also the worlds leading nation for tiger conservation with the initiation of Project India by the government in the 1970s. This project has been successful with an increase in the tiger population in the 50 Indian tiger reserves.
Species of Tigers
There are nine subspecies of tiger, three of which are now extinct.
The Amur Tiger, also known as Siberian, Manchurian, Ussurian, and North-East China tiger. These tigers are the largest of all the tiger species. The average length from head to tail is 3.3-metre and can weigh up to 300 kg. Amur tigers are paler orange and have brown stripes, white chests, and a white ruff around their necks. The majority of these tigers are found in the Russian Far East, and smaller numbers on the Russian-China border. Amur tigers are now being bred in zoos to increase their population and maintain healthy breeding animals.
Indian Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
The Indian Tiger, is also known as the Bengal tiger. India has the largest population of these tigers, which is estimated to be around 60%. They are also found in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.
South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis)
The South China Tiger is found in central and eastern China. There are only 47 of these tigers left, divided between 18 zoos in China.
Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)
The Malayan Tiger is found in tropical and subtropical forests in southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.
Indo-Chinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)
Also known as Corbett’s tiger the Indo-Chinese tiger is found in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. These tigers are smaller and darker than Bengal tigers, with shorter and narrower stripes. The average length from head to tail is 3 metres and they can weigh up to 180 kg. These tigers live in remote forests, hilly and mountainous habitats. This makes them very hard to find, and therefore very little is known about their current number status.
Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)
The Sumatran Tiger is found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Despite being highly protected by the Indonesian Government with large fines and jail terms, these tigers are still hunted for their skins and body parts. These tigers are the darkest of all the tigers and the smallest. The average length is 2.4 metres head to tail and they weigh around 90 kg.
Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica)
These have been EXTINCT since 1940’s. Previously found in western Bali.
Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica)
EXTINCT since the 1980’s. Previously found in Java’s Meru Betiri National Park.
Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgate)
Also known as Hyrcanian tiger or Turan tiger, the Caspian Tiger has been EXTINCT since the 1970’s. Previously found in forests and riverine corridors of west Turkey, southern Iran, Central Asia, and parts of China.
White tigers are Bengal tigers with a rare genetic mutation. They are a result of inbreeding in zoos using 2 rare white tigers possessing the same genetic mutation. Inbreeding should be avoided as many of these so-called ‘designer tigers’ are born with a number of defects, such as scoliosis of the spine, cross eyes, cleft palates, shorter lifespans, and other health issues.
Golden Tigers as with the white tiger these tigers are also a result of inbreeding and suffer the same birth defects.
Tigers are solitary animals, apart from when a female is raising cubs. Tigers are solo hunters and stalk their prey primarily by sight and sound rather than smell. They can eat more than 36 kg of meat at a meal. Tigers can give birth to 2-4 cubs every 2 years which remain with their mother for around 2 years. Sadly 50% of all cubs do not survive more than 2 years. Life expectancy for tigers in the wild is up to 20 years.
Humans are responsible for the declining tiger numbers. Poaching and illegal wildlife trade used for traditional Chinese medicines. Hunting and poaching for rugs, and trophies. Habitat loss due to deforestation, to make more land available for population growth, agriculture, and industries. Climate change, diseases (Feline Panleucopania, tuberculosis). Human-animal conflict, lack of protection infrastructure, increased tourism. Due to declining habitats tigers are living in closer proximity to humans and preying on livestock which results in farmers killing the tigers.
Tigers are more than just an iconic species. As top predators of the food chain, they keep the ecosystem balanced and protect the forests they live in.
Please enjoy these two short videos on tigers
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