Animal Info - Tiger

(Other Names: 虎, トラ, Amba Darla, Babr, Bagh, Harimau, Kaduva, Klaa Thom, Lao Hu, Pedda Puli, Rimau, Seua, Sher, Sua Khong, Sua Lay, Tag, Tigr, Tigre)

Panthera tigris

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Reproductive Age, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Age and Gender Distribution, Mortality and Survival, Density and Range, Genetics)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Three Cubs (34 Kb JPEG) and Mother and Cubs (38 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Spec. Group)

The tiger is the largest member of the cat family, with the Amur (Siberian) tiger weighing as much as 360 kg (790 lb). Although it is found in a variety of habitats, the tiger always requires dense vegetative cover, an adequate supply of large ungulate prey, and access to a reliable source of water. The principal prey of the tiger consists of various species of deer and wild pigs, usually in the 50 - 200 kg (110 - 440 lb) range. These include sambar, chital, swamp deer, red deer, rusa deer and wild boar. It will also take young elephants and rhinos and smaller species such as monkeys, birds, reptiles and fish.

Tigers are generally diurnal or crepuscular where they are undisturbed, but they become nocturnal in disturbed habitats or near human settlements. They do not readily cross large open areas. Although tigers are usually solitary (except for females with cubs), males and females exhibit a high degree of social tolerance towards one another. A male tiger usually establishes a territory that does not overlap with the territories of other males but does overlap the territories of 2 - 3 females (up to 7). Females establish territories that generally (but not always) do not overlap each other. The range of an individual tiger can vary from 50 sq km (20 sq mi) in an area with high prey densities (e.g. some reserves in India) to 4000 sq km (1500 sq mi) in Siberia.

The tiger formerly occurred from Turkey across southern Asia and most of China, to the Soviet Far East. The Southeast Asian range included peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Java and Bali. But the abundance and distribution of tigers has diminished substantially since the beginning of the 20th century. 3 of the 8 subspecies of tiger, the Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers, have become extinct since the 1950's. Currently, the tiger occurs only in scattered populations from India to Vietnam and in Indonesia (Sumatra), the Russian Far East, and possibly in China and North Korea. The tiger is extinct in most of its former range.

Commercial poaching (especially to obtain various parts of the tiger's body for Oriental medicine), a declining prey base, and loss of habitat are the principal threats to the tiger at present.


Tidbits

*** In Malaysia, until the late 1950's, the tiger had a status lower than that of the wild pig, rat or squirrel. It was to be destroyed on sight by every possible means due to its perceived threat. (Khan 1987)

*** In Nepal, many villagers don't understand why the law protects animals such as tigers (and rhinos and snow leopards), which they consider to be pests to their crops and livestock, particularly since no one uses them for food or other purposes. The villagers believe that their lives and the welfare of their families are more important than "saving wildlife." (Mishra et al. 1987)

*** Some cultures (e.g. in India and Bangladesh) tolerate the killing of people by tigers to an extent. In fact, the tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh (and India). This is despite the fact that between 1948 and 1986, 814 people were killed by tigers in Bangladesh's Sundarbans (Luoma 1987).

*** The use of infra-red cameras to survey nocturnal animals has been applied in the Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia. In six weeks of photo-trapping, nine individual tigers were photographed.  Surprisingly, these tigers were not in remote forest but on the edge of the park, close to villages and a major logging operation. (Martyr 1997)

*** In a landmark case, four farmers in China’s Jilin Province received compensation for three cows killed and eaten by an Amur (Siberian) tiger. They won a lawsuit against the local government, which paid out in accordance with a provincial law, passed in 1996, that compensation would be paid to those whose crops or domestic animals were damaged by wild animals. One of the farmers, Li Yi, said he was glad tigers had protection, but people’s interests must be guaranteed at the same time. (Cat News 1998d)

*** [Editor's Note: Do not try this at home!] While sleeping in their hut, an Indian farmer, his wife and three children awoke to find a tiger sleeping with them. The tiger was "sleeping like a baby." The family crept out quietly without waking the tiger. They contacted local Forest Department officials, who tranquilized the tiger and released it in the forest. (Cat News 2002a)

*** Tigers can adapt themselves to a great variety of situations, including some contact with humans, as long as their prey base remains ample - about 50 deer-size animals to support one tiger during a year (U. Karanth, cited in Simmons 2003).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Tiger Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia (Sumatra), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam (IUCN 2004).

Taxonomy:

Recent genetic analyses have lead to the proposal that all modern cats can be placed into eight lineages which originated between 6.2 - 10.8 million years ago. The tiger is placed in the "Panthera lineage," which diverged from its ancestors as a separate lineage 10.8 million years ago. The Panthera lineage also includes the lion, the jaguar, the leopard, the clouded leopard, and the snow leopard. (Johnson et al. 2006)

Population Estimates:

[Skip Population Estimates]

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

WORLD

By Subspecies:

By Country:

"Most people have the absurd notion that one can go out and count every individual tiger and deer in this huge country [India].  I have to be blunt with my trainees and tell them the so-called censuses of the past were practically worthless, and the numbers of tigers they read about in the press are absurd." (Karanth 1999)

History of Distribution:

The tiger formerly occurred from Turkey across southern Asia (except Sri Lanka), most of China (including Hong Kong), to the Soviet Far East (including Sakhalin Island). The Southeast Asian range included peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Java and Bali. But the abundance and distribution of tigers has diminished substantially since the beginning of the 20th century. 3 of the 8 subspecies of tiger, the Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers, have become extinct since the 1950's. The tiger is now extinct in most of its former range. As of 1996, the tiger occurred only in scattered populations from India to Vietnam and in Sumatra (Indonesia), China and the Russian Far East. By 2001, no subpopulation was believed to contain more than 250 mature breeding individuals (IUCN 2003a).

The Amur (Siberian) tiger ranged throughout the forests of Korea and China, north along the eastern coast of Russia, to the edge of Siberia. But in the late 19th century, during the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway, and the ensuing influx of Russian settlers to the Far East, Siberian tigers were deliberately eradicated. In the early 1940's the Amur tiger survived in only about five isolated areas in Primorye (Maritime Territory), Russia. However, protected effectively by law in Russia since the 1950's, the Siberian tiger recovered significantly, and by 1980 it had recolonized many of the regions where it occurred in the early 20th century.

The historical range of South China tigers stretched over a vast landscape of 2000 km (1200 mi) from east to west and 1500 km (930 mi) from north to south in China. From east to west it ranged from Jiangxi and Zhejiang Provinces through Guizhou and Sichuan Provinces, and from north to south it ranged from the Qinling Mountains and Yellow River area to Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces (Tilson et al. 2004). Surveys conducted in the 1990's found evidence of the presence of four subspecies of tigers in Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Heilongjiang Provinces. And, after an absence of more than 40 years, it has been reported that tigers spotted in Zhejiang Province have been confirmed by DNA tests of feces, carried out by scientists from Zhejiang University, to be South China tigers (Anon. 2000). However, in 2001-2, Chinese-American field surveys of 8 reserves in five Chinese provinces identified by government authorities as habitat most likely to contain tigers found no evidence of wild South China tigers, few prey species, and no livestock depredation by tigers reported in the last 10 years (Tilson et al. 2004).

Distribution Map #1 (Current Distribution) (54 Kb GIF) (IUCN Cat Spec. Group)
Distribution Map #2 (Historic Distribution) (70 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Spec. Group)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Commercial poaching (especially to obtain various parts of the tiger's body for Oriental medicine), a declining prey base, and loss of habitat are the principal threats to the tiger at present.

The Amur tiger in Russia has come under increased poaching pressure in recent years due to the political and economic changes that have occurred subsequent to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In India, thousands of villagers enter forests around their homes, including tiger reserves, to shoot and trap the tigers' prey. This can reduce the prey densities to levels below what is needed to support viable tiger populations.

The extirpation of tigers on Bali and Java was attributed to extensive habitat fragmentation, widespread loss of critical ungulate prey through disease, and direct mortality by man, partly as a result of civil unrest in the 1960's (armed groups seeking the sanctuary provided by tiger reserves killed the tigers) (Seidensticker 1986).

More so in the past than at present, tigers were killed because they were considered to be a threat to human life and domestic livestock. They were also valued as a big game trophy by sport hunters. Some European hunters and Indian maharajahs each killed hundreds of tigers.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

Amur (Siberian) tigers may weigh as much as 360 kg (790 lb). In India, male Bengal tigers usually weigh 200-270 kg (440 - 595 lb). Male Sumatran tigers weigh 100 - 140 kg (220 - 310 lb).

Habitat:

The tiger is found in a variety of habitats: from the tropical evergreen and deciduous forests of southern Asia to the coniferous, scrub oak, and birch woodlands of Siberia. It also thrives in the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans, the dry thorn forests of north-western India, and the tall grasses of the terai at the foot of the Himalayas. Tigers are found in Himalayan valleys, and a Bengal tiger has been photographed at 3,000 m (9800') in the Himalayas. The extinct Caspian tiger frequented seasonally flooded riverine land known as tugai, consisting of trees, shrubs, and dense stands of tall reeds and grass up to 6 m (20') in height. (IUCN 2004)

Its broad geographical distribution creates the illusion that the tiger is an adaptable species. In fact, it is a highly specialized large predator with specific habitat requirements and is much less adaptable than, say, the leopard. (Macdonald 1984) The main habitat requirements of the tiger are dense vegetative cover, an adequate supply of large ungulate prey (principally deer and wild pigs), and access to a reliable source of water.

The tiger lives in both the Himalaya, Indo-Burma, Sundaland, and Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005) as well as the Annamite Range Moist Forests, Sundarbans Mangroves, Kayah-Karan/Tenasserim Moist Forests, Sundaland & Eastern Indonesian Archipelago Mangroves, Terai-Duar Savannas & Grasslands, Sumatran Montane Forests, Western Ghats Moist Forests, Eastern Indochina Dry & Monsoon Forests, Eastern Indian Monsoon Forests, Northern Indochina Subtropical Moist Forests, Russian Far East Temperate Forests, Sumatran-Nicobar Islands Lowland Forests, and Peninsular Malaysian Lowland & Montane Forests Global 200 Ecoregions (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999).

Age to Maturity:

Average - 3.4 years (female), 4.8 years (male) (Chitwan, Nepal) (Smith & McDougal 1991)

Gestation Period:

102 - 103 days.

Birth Season:

Mating takes place throughout the year, but is most frequent from November to April. In Nepal, a peak in births occurs from May - July.

Birth Rate:

In Chitwan (Nepal), the average litter size was 3.0 (range 2 - 5). Generally 2 - 3 in a litter are most common, with a range of 1 - 7.

The time between births is usually 20 - 30 months. If the young are lost soon after birth the interval can be as short as 8 months.

The average reproductive life span of Chitwan (Nepal) tigers was found to be 6.1 years for females and 2.8 years for males. For females, the mean number of cubs surviving to dispersal was estimated at 4.54 (Variance = 11.48) and the average number of cubs incorporated into the breeding population was 2.0 (Variance = 3.26). For males, an average of 5.83 cubs survived to dispersal (Variance = 50.0), and 2.0 were incorporated into the breeding population (Variance = 7.0). (Smith & McDougal 1991)

The reproduction rate for Amur [Siberian] tigers appears to be approximately 1 cub/adult female/year (Stamotyuk 1998).

Early Development:

Cubs are dependent on their mother's milk for about the first 2 months of their lives, and after that the female starts to take them to kills. Weaning takes place at about 6 months. A cub is totally dependent on its mother for food until it is about 18 months old.

Dispersal:

Dispersal usually occurs at an age between 18 and 28 months for male and female young. This is about 2 - 3 months after a new litter is born, which coincides with the time when the new litter begins to follow the mother.

The process of dispersal may take a month or more and usually involves several exploratory trips. A young male seeks a territory far from his birth site but may later return. Some young females never leave their mother's territory and may eventually force their mother out. The average dispersal distance for 10 young males in Chitwan National Park (Nepal) was 33 km (20 mi); for 4 females it was shorter, less than 10 km (6 mi), because of the female's tendency to settle next to its mother's territory (Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1991).

Maximum Reproductive Age:

At least 14 years (captivity).

Maximum Age:

A female tiger may live to about 15 years in the wild. In captivity it can live as long as 26 years.

Diet:

The principal prey of the tiger consists of various species of deer and wild pigs, usually in the 50 - 200 kg (110 - 440 lb) range. These include sambar, chital, swamp deer, red deer, rusa deer and wild boar. It will also take young elephants and rhinos and smaller species such as monkeys, birds, reptiles and fish. Tigers sometimes prey on leopards and other carnivores such as bears, which they attack in their winter dens. They eat carrion and can be cannibalistic.

In India the gaur is sometimes the main prey, including bulls weighing up to 1000 kg (2200 lb). In Thailand, barking deer was the major prey species, while important secondary prey included wild boar, sambar deer, the crestless Himalayan porcupine and hog badger (Rabinowitz 1989).

The average amount eaten over several days is about 15 - 18 kg/day (33 - 40 lb/day) (Macdonald 1984).

Behavior:

Tigers are generally diurnal or crepuscular where they are undisturbed, but they become nocturnal in disturbed habitats or near human settlements.

A tigress with young has to kill more often to provide food - an estimated once every 5 - 6 days, or 60 - 70 animals/year, for a female with 2 young, compared with a kill every 8 days or 40 - 50 kills/year for a female in the same area without dependent young (Macdonald 1984). Tigers travel extensively in search of prey, often covering 8 - 24 km (5 - 15 mi) in the course of an unsuccessful night of hunting (Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1991).

Births can occur in a cave, a rocky crevice or dense vegetation.

Tigers do not readily cross large open areas. They readily enter water, even swimming across wide rivers and lying half-submerged in lakes or ponds during hot weather.

Tigers are successful in approximately 5 - 10% of their attacks on prey.

Social Organization:

Although tigers are usually solitary (except for females with cubs), males and females exhibit a high degree of social tolerance towards one another. Males associate with females for breeding and have been observed with females and cubs when feeding or resting. On the other hand, because tigers usually live in dense cover, where small- to medium-sized prey are scattered and hard to find, it is probably more efficient to hunt separately than in groups as lions do.

A male tiger usually establishes a territory that does not overlap with the territories of other males but does overlap the territories of 2 - 3 females (up to 7). Females establish territories that generally but not always do not overlap each other. If the territories of females do overlap, the females generally concentrate their activities in different areas so that they are rarely in the same area at the same time.

Male and female tigers leave scent marks such as urine sprayed on bushes and trees, feces left in prominent places, scratch marks on trees, and scrapes on the ground to show that their territory is occupied. This generally helps tigers avoid one another, so that fights are not frequent, although they do occur.

Age and Gender Distribution:

The male/female ratio is not significantly different from unity at birth. The ratio of adults in the wild is approximately 1 male to 2 females (Spitsin et al. 1987, Smith & McDougal 1991).

Mortality and Survival:

In Chitwan (Nepal), mortality during the first year was 34%. Second-year mortality was 17%. Mortality was estimated to be 0.34 for males and 0.43 for females during the period between dispersal and establishment of a breeding territory. (Smith & McDougal 1991)

Temporal variability in cub survival ranged from 90% survival to dispersal in a year when resident males were stable, to 33% survival in a year when infanticide was widespread. During the latter period, which followed the death of a male whose territory included 7 females, a number of instances of infanticide occurred as new males took over the territories of former residents. (Smith & McDougal 1991)

About half of all cubs do not survive more than 2 years (Nowak & Paradiso 1983).

[There is] an annual loss of cubs [of Siberian tigers] in the range of 16 - 26% (Stamotyuk 1998).

Density and Range:

Density: 

  • 0.01 adult tigers/sq km (0.03 adult tigers/sq mi) (Udjung Kulon Reserve, Java, Indonesia) (Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1991)
  • Tigers have higher densities if the availability of prey is higher. The following entries are listed in decreasing order of the density of ungulate prey (Nowell & Jackson 1996):
    • 0.12 individuals/sq km (0.3 individuals/sq mi) (Nagarhole, India)
    • 0.1 individuals/sq km (0.3 individuals/sq mi) (Ranthambore, India)
    • 0.09 individuals/sq km (0.2 individuals/sq mi) (Chitwan, Nepal)
    • 0.07 individuals/sq km (0.2 individuals/sq mi) (Kanha, India)
    • 0.04 adults/sq km (0.1 adults/sq mi) (Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia)
    • 0.01 - 0.02 adults/sq km (0.03 - 0.06 adults/sq mi) (Gunung Leuser, Sumatra, Indonesia)
    • 0.01 adults/sq km (0.03 adults/sq mi) (Huai Kha Khaeng, Thailand)
    • 0.006 - 0.009 individuals/sq km (0.02 individuals/sq mi) (Lazovsky, Russia)
    • 0.001 - 0.005 individuals/sq km (0.003 - 0.01 individuals/sq mi) (Sikhote Alin, Russia).
  • Data obtained from 19 studies, based in five countries (density in tigers/sq km (tigers/sq mi)) (Carbone et al. 2001):
    • India: 0.092 (0.24) (Kanha); 0.13 (0.34) (Kaziranga); 0.10 (0.26) (Nagarahole); 0.041 (0.11) (Pench); 0.14 (0.36) (Bandhavgarh)
    • Indonesia: 0.051 (0.13) (Way Kambas (annual average)); 0.018 (0.047) (Gunung Leuser); 0.011 (0.029) (Bukit Barisan Selatan); 0.02 (0.052) (Kerinchi Seblat)
    • Nepal: 0.16 (0.42) (Chitwan)
    • Thailand: 0.012 (0.031) (Halabala Wildlife); 0.018 (0.047) (Queen Sirikit Reserve Forest, Yala Province); 0.012 (0.031) (Phu Khieo Wildl. Sanct., Chaiyaphum Prov.); 0.012 (0.031) (Khao Yai NP, Nakhon Ratchasima Prov.)
    • Malaysia: 0.023 (0.060) (Temenggor Forest Reserve, Perak); 0.010 (0.026) (Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve, Perak); 0.0053 (0.014) (Gunung Tebu Forest Reserve, Terngganu); 0.0095 (0.025) (Ulu Temaing Forest Reserve, Kelantan); 0.012 (0.031) (Taman Negara)
  • 0.034 individuals/sq km (0.088 individuals/sq mi) (Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats mountain range, India) (Gubbi 2004)

Home Range:

  • 50 - 1000 sq km (19 - 380 sq mi) (India)
  • 500 - 4000 sq km (190 - 1500 sq mi) (Manchuria and southeast Siberia)
  • 60 - 72 sq km (23 - 28 sq mi) for males and 16 - 20 sq km (6 - 8 sq mi) for females (Nepal)

(Nowak & Paradiso 1983)

  • The average size of a mature [Siberian] tiger's home range is about 450 sq km (174 sq km), based upon an assessment of the prey base of this predator and its relations with competitors (Stamotyuk 1998).

Territory:

  • 350 - 450 sq km (135 - 173 sq mi) for breeding females; up to 2000 sq km (770 sq mi) for males (Russian Far East)

(Cat News 1997)

Genetics:

Per cent polymorphic loci: 10.0; average heterozygosity: 0.035 (O'Brien et al. 1985).

The rate of inbreeding in the Chitwan tiger population is approximately 2% per generation, despite the fact that the Chitwan population is one of the largest on the Indian subcontinent (45 breeding females and 20 breeding males). (Smith & McDougal 1991)


References

Anon. 2000, Arkive, Aziz 1998, Burton & Pearson 1987, Carbone et al. 2001, Cat News 1994, Cat News 1997, Cat News 1997b, Cat News 1998d, Cat News 1998e, Caughley & Gunn 1996, Cat News 2002a, Cons. Intl. 2005, Curry-Lindahl 1972, Focus 2000a, Focus 2002b, Gee 1964, Gittins & Akonda 1982, Gubbi 2004, Humphrey & Bain 1990, IUCN 1966, IUCN 1967, IUCN 1968, IUCN 1969, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, IUCN Cat Spec. Group, Jackson 1993, Jackson 1994, Jackson 1996, Jackson 1998, Johnson et al. 2006, Karanth 1995, Karanth 1999, Kenney et al. 1995, Khan 1987, Luoma 1987, Ma et al. 1997, Macdonald 1984, Martyr 1997, McDougal 1977, Mishra et al. 1987, Mountfort 1983, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Nowell & Jackson 1996, O'Brien et al. 1985, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Oryx 1965b, Oryx 1971c, Oryx 1979b, Oryx 1989h, Oryx 1990d, Oryx 1991f, Oryx 1995m, Oryx 1995n, Oryx 1998b, Oryx 2004b, Panwar 1987, Prynn 1980, Quigley 1993, Rabinowitz 1989, Rabinowitz 1993, Schafer & Hill 1993, Schaller 1967, Schaller 1979, Seidensticker 1986, Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1991, Silva & Downing 1994, Simmons 2003, Smith & McDougal 1991, Spitsin et al. 1987, Stamotyuk 1998, Starbridge 2000a, Thapar 2003, Tilson & Seal 1987, Tilson et al. 1997, Tilson et al. 2004, Vertefeuille 2002, Wildl. Cons. 2000b


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