Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
altaica (Siberian or Amur)
tigris (Bengal or Indian)
amoyensis (South China)
Length: largest—Siberian tiger, with males 10 feet (3 meters) long; smallest—Sumatran tiger, with males 8 feet (2.4 meters) long
Weight: Siberian tiger males—400 pounds and up (181 kilograms); Sumatran tiger males—220 pounds (100 kilograms)
Life span: 15 to 20 years in the wild, up to 26 years in zoos
Gestation: about 103 days
Number of young at birth: up to 7, but average is 2 to 3
Size at birth: 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram)
Age of maturity: 3 to 6 years
Conservation status: all tiger species are endangered.
Each tiger has its very own stripe pattern.
Researchers who observe tigers can identify individuals by
their unique stripes!
Other interesting tiger markings are the white spots on the backs of their ears. This may be a visual cue for tigers looking for other tigers, or it may be a way for mothers to keep their cubs in sight in the dense forest undergrowth.
Some cats do like waterand tigers are among them! On a hot, steamy day in the Asian forest, tigers will take to the river to cool off. In colder climates, they enjoy the snow.
- Clouded Leopard
- Fishing Cat
- Lynx & Bobcat
- Mountain Lion
- Small Cat
- Snow Leopard
Tigers make several kinds of sounds that have different meanings. Listen to each one!
Chuffle (greeting or contentment)
Growl ("This is my territory" or a male calling a female)
Snarl/Growl (tigress' warning)
Moan and chuffle (greeting and contentment)
Cub (squealing while being weighed)
Older cub (wailing)
Tigers are recognized by their orange, black, and white stripe pattern. The tiger is a stalk-and-ambush hunter, and the stripes are good camouflage in the long grass. Dark stripes on a pale background break up the tigers outline as it lies in wait for prey to come near. Tigers can also be black with tan stripes, all white (albino), or white and tan. The white tigers found in some zoos are not albino but rather the white-and-tan color variation with blue eyes (true albinos have pink eyes).
A tigers front paws are large and strong to bring down prey. The front paws of a tiger have five toes each. The claws can be pulled inside while the tiger walks, which helps keep the claws sharp. Tigers also use their claws to mark their territory by scratching on trees. Conveniently, this also sharpens the claws.
Tigers are patient hunters and can move slowly and quietly, stalking their prey for 20 or 30 minutes. A tigers large canine teeth and powerful jaws are used to grab a prey animal by the neck and suffocate it. Tigers use their sandpaper-rough tongues to scrape the last bits of meat from the bones of a meal. A tiger will make a kill once or twice a week and eat as much as it can. Using its paws, it then covers the leftovers with grass and dirt to hide it from vultures and other scavengers. The tiger will return to the kill over the next few days for smaller snacks. In the wild, they prefer pigs and deer, while in some parts of Asia they may bring down a rhino or elephant calf. At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park the tigers are fed a varied diet, including a specialized carnivore diet, carcasses, and large bones.
Six types of tigers
There are currently six subspecies of tigers. The different subspecies are found in areas of Asia, India, and Russia. The largest subspecies is found in snowy areas of Russia. The smallest and darkest subspecies is found farther south, in the jungles of Indonesia. Tigresses (females) are always smaller than males.
Siberian or Amur tiger Panthera tigris altaica— The largest of the tiger subspecies, males can be as long as a station wagon! These tigers also have the palest orange coat and the fewest stripes. There are about 450 Siberian tigers left in their home range.
Bengal or Indian tiger Panthera tigris tigris This is the most common subspecies of tiger. Around 1,850 Bengal tigers remain in their native habitat.
Indochinese tiger Panthera tigris corbetti These tigers are about 20 percent smaller and are darker than Bengal tigers. Only 350 Indochinese tigers are believed to be left in the wild.
Malayan tiger Panthera tigris jacksoni — This is the subspecies at the San Diego Zoo. In the wild, only about 500 Malayan tigers remain.
Sumatran tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae Even though the Sumatran is the smallest tiger subspecies, its still a pretty big cat. Imagine a tiger the same length as a school cafeteria table! The Safari Park has a small group of Sumatran tigers, but in the wild there are only about 400 remaining.
South China tiger Panthera tigris amoyensis These tigers are slightly smaller than the Indochinese subspecies. In the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered that these tigers be destroyed because they were viewed as pests. Today, it is believed these tigers are most likely extinct.
Tiger cubs are born small and helpless, but the mother must leave them alone while she hunts. Tiger cubs dont hunt on their own until they are two years old. A tigress can have a litter of up to seven cubs every two years. In the wild, the mother could not kill enough prey to feed so many hungry cubs, so usually only two survive.
To people of many cultures, the tiger is a symbol of strength and courage. But if tigers are so admired, why are they endangered? For many years, tigers have been hunted for their fur and other body parts, some of which are used in native medicines. In some cultures, people hunt tigers for sport or to demonstrate their own bravery. Tiger hunting continues today because the body parts can be sold for a lot of money. Several traditional medicines use tiger parts as a cure for all kinds of illnesses, from pimples to toothaches. These cures have never been proven to be effective.
Tigers also suffer from habitat loss. When people move into areas where tigers live, tigers are forced into smaller and smaller areas where there may not be enough food for the big cats to survive.
The end of the tail?
Tiger researchers estimate that there are fewer than 3,500 tigers in the world. But there is a lot of work being done to make sure that tigers will survive. In the early 1970s, India began passing laws against killing tigers. Since then, other countries with wild tigers have passed similar laws. Many countries around the world, including the United States, have passed laws to stop the sale of products made from tiger parts. International projects exist that help protect wild tiger habitat. Zoos help tigers through breeding programs and by teaching people around the world about these cats.