| Bengal tiger|
Panthera tigris tigris
The Tiger is a large, striped feline, a member of the Panthera Genus, and largest of the Big Cats found in the wild. Formerly found across much of Asia, much of its habitat is restricted in its range. Several species of tiger are endangered including the Siberian and South China tigers. The Javan, Balinese and Caspian varieties of tiger are now extinct. The biggest habitat is Malaysia, where plenty of wild tigers still roam.
Tigers are solitary predators, capable of easily killing prey as large as a buffalo or a yak, or as small as a rabbit or lemur. They can sometimes kill domestic livestock, including cattle. These predatory acts are a common justification for the hunting of tigers to near extinction.
Tigers are almost unique among the great cats in that they are fond of swimming. Though not as arboreal as the leopard, they can climb trees. They can make horizontal leaps of up to 33 feet (10 meters) although half that distance is more typical, and can sprint in short bursts of 35 to 40mph depending on subspecies.
- Amur, or Siberian tiger, Panthera tigris altaica
- Found in far-eastern Russia near the border of Manchuria (China). Current population estimates are 360 adult individuals as of 2005.
- Bengal tiger, Panthera tigris tigris
- Found in India, with a range extending into Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, and Nepal. The most recent surveys estimated the number of Bengal tigers in these countries to be not more than 2,500.
- Indochinese, or Corbett's tiger, Panthera tigris corbetti
- Found in southeast Asia, extending north into southern China; current estimates number up to 650 tigers alive in the wild. This subspecies was named for former big game hunter and British Army Colonel Jim Corbett around 1910, who turned to conservation of the tigers and their habitat.
- Malayan tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni
- Found in Thailand and the Malay Peninsula; current estimates number around 493-1,480 tigers as of 2003.
- South-China tiger, Panthera tigris amoyensis
- Found in eastern China. Demand for Chinese traditional medicine reduced the number of these tigers to an estimated 150-200 individuals in the wild in 1982; since that time no official sighting has been confirmed apart from tracks and scrapings. There are approximately 72 of these tigers in zoos and captive breeding facilities. The subspecies is considered ecologically extinct, i.e. no effective breeding population in the wild.
- Sumatran tiger, Panthera tigris sumatrae
- Found on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Hunting and habitat loss reduced these tigers to approximately 342-509 individuals in six protected areas as of 2006; current estimates suggest the number could be higher.
- Bali tiger, Panthera tigris balica
- Found only on the island of Bali, Indonesia, this subspecies had to co-exist with man on a small island approximately 2,175 square miles in size; increased contact led to the tigers being hunted, with the last one killed in 1937.
- Caspian, or Turanian tiger, Panthera tigris virgata
- Only tiger found in western Asia near the Caspian Sea, as far west as eastern Turkey and northern Iran. The last one was spotted near the Aral River in 1968. Genetic information reveals a very close relationship to the Amur tiger.
- Javan tiger, Panthera tigris sondaica
- The last wild tiger on the island of Java, Indonesia, was seen in the Meru Betiri National Park, 1976; it was declared extinct four years later.
Tigers face numerous threats, all at the hands of man; apart from man they have no natural enemies. Tigers require large tracts of territory in which to hunt and breed, but current studies indicate they have lost 91% of their former range due to the swelling human populations of southern and southeast Asian countries, especially China and India. Logging, settlements, and agriculture eliminated viable habitat, and the replacement of large game animals with livestock naturally caused additional tiger deaths as humans sought to protect their domestic animals. The pressure brought to bear on tigers caused some to find an unnatural replacement for their diet - man. In one instance, tigers killed 41 people in 18 months (2001-03) in the Sundarbans mangrove forest of Bangladesh.
Illegal trade in traditional, Asian medicine has also taken a toll. Products made from tiger parts have been traded for over 1,000 years, as Asian cultures believe in the healing power they claim the cats have, despite no evidence that such claims are valid.