Panthera tigris

Quick Bio for Tigers:

Status: Endangered
have from 1-7 cubs, usually 3
Weight: 90-420 kg
Diet: Carnivore

Physical description of Tigers

Do I really need to describe a tiger for you? The coat is clearly ‘tiger-striped,’ with vertical black stripes on a reddish-orange fur. The face is also striped, sometimes with white patches around the eyes. The underlying fur is generally reddish-orange but can be quite light-colored and almost white in some animals, while the belly and underside are a lighter color in most animals. The tail also carries the black stripes.

Tigers are the largest of all cat species. Like a lot of species, the island versions are somewhat smaller. The now-extinct Javan and Balian tigers were relatively small, and the smallest remaining subspecies is the Sumatran tiger. The Siberian tiger, on the other hand, is the largest, as larger bodies are somewhat more effective at keeping warm in colder climates. The Bengal tiger – the one we all think of when we think of tigers – is approximately 2 m long and stands about 1 m at the shoulder with a tail that can reach another meter. They weigh up to 250 kg, though the female is considerably lighter than the male, often not reaching more than 150 kg. There is also a considerable difference in the size of the Bengal tiger subspecies, ranging from lightweights in Bangladesh to heavyweights in Nepal.

Today, the weights of some Bengal tigers rival that of the Siberian subspecies, possibly because the heavier, larger, and more impressive were overhunted. We can imagine that the male population is returning to its preferred size, given today’s strict controls on hunting.

Also, the average weight of Siberian tigers is now less than previously, and they are not as massive as historic populations were.

Tiger (Panthera tigris) wading through the water of a pond in Bandhavgarh National Park, India
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Tiger (Panthera tigris) wading through the water of a pond in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

Distribution and habitat of Tigers

Tigers have a pretty extensive range as far as cats go in the modern world. They range from Siberia to tropical Indonesia and throughout the Indian subcontinent. The range was once even larger, spreading into Iran and Turkey and onto numerous Indonesian islands. Today, the range, while still extensive, is not widely covered in tigers. They are mostly gone from China and South East Asia. Few remain in Indonesia, restricted to the Island of Sumatra. The numbers in Manchuria and the Far East are limited, and the populations in India are very fragmented.

What helped the tiger spread over such a large range was its ability to live in a variety of different habitats. The tiger does like long grasses and cover for hunting, but it is adaptable and can live in all forest types and even in areas with minimal vegetation. It just needs enough for some cover while hunting.

The tiger lives from the sea level in places like Bangladesh right up to 4000 m in the Himalayas, from areas with tropical rainforest to the taiga forests of Siberia. These diverse lands have obviously equally diverse landscapes and habitats. The birch forests of the north and the tropical rainforests of the south are significantly different, and the life and numbers of tigers reflect this.

Female Bengal Tiger(Pathera tigris) quenching her thirst at a waterhole during a morning safari at Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India
Licensed from Shutterstock
Female Bengal Tiger(Pathera tigris) quenching her thirst at a waterhole during a morning safari at Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Tiger behavior

On leaving their mothers, tigers become solitary animals. Tiger cubs can stay with their mothers for two years. Males stick to themselves, though they are sometimes known to interact with their cubs within their home territory. This is relatively rare.

While tigers are somewhat nocturnal, they are also visible and active during the day. Quite often in tiger reserves, they will be seen wandering along the main tracks, but when hunting they prefer the undergrowth and dense jungle that, along with their stripes, provides plenty of camouflage.

Two Bengal Tigers,  Panthera tigris, walking through the dry forest of the hot summer in Rajasthan. The dry pre-monsoon season are advantageous for seeing tigers in the Jungle.
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Two Bengal Tigers, Panthera tigris, walking through the dry forest of the hot summer in Rajasthan. The dry pre-monsoon season are advantageous for seeing tigers in the Jungle.

Despite being a massive creature, the cats are quite capable of moving stealthily through the bush. They are ambush hunters and so spend a lot of time stalking and only make an attack when they are close enough, though, in the case of a tiger, this is a lot further than the case with other cats. Their ability to jump long distances is indeed impressive.

Territories are generally well guarded against interlopers, but tigers are also known to have overlapping territories in areas where the prey concentration makes this necessary.

The territory of a tiger is marked by scent. However, they also leave scratch markings on trees as well to indicate that they are in charge of the territory. It is noticeable when you see a tiger that responds to a scent marking. He generally wrinkles his nose and lets his tongue hang out. This is to help smell the scent better and understand the marking.

Growls and roars are common forms of communication up close. The roar is not as impressive as that of a lion. However, it is designed to display the tiger’s size and his dominance as well as to let others know where he is. Essentially, it is a warning.

Wild Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris) cooling off in the pond.
Licensed from Shutterstock
Wild Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris) cooling off in the pond.

What do Tigers eat?

The tiger is at the top of the food chain, and nothing will get in its way. It will eat almost anything. Mostly though, it hunts deer that is slightly smaller (at least lighter) than itself. Sambar, spotted deer and barking deer are all normal. Even elephants (young) and rhinoceros are on the menu. However, this is only in opportunistic cases, such as when the prey is sick. In times of scarcity, anything smaller will also be eaten, such as the Indian wild chicken or even rodents.

Hunting is not commonly observed in tigers because they mostly hunt at night and in the dense brush. As stealth hunters, they maximize the cover available and only leap at the last moment. This means that successful hunts are only briefly visible to any observer. The prey is quickly dragged back into the dense undergrowth. Larger kills will be eaten over a number of days.

Male Bengal tiger (Pathera tigris) close-up in Bandipur national park, Karnataka, India.
Licensed from Shutterstock
Male Bengal tiger (Pathera tigris) close-up in Bandipur national park, Karnataka, India.

Mating and Parental care of Tigers

Tigers are solitary animals. It is standard among cat species. The males and females live separate lives except during mating season. When we say solitary, we are referring to adults. Kittens, or as they are known in the case of tigers – cubs – obviously live with their mother. This can last for up to three years but is generally two. Along with lions, this is the longest time that cubs stay with their mother.

The family unit stays together from birth until the cubs have learned enough to hunt successfully on their own. For the first couple of months, tiger cubs are kept in a den, but when they start to eat the prey their mother brings back, they start to explore. It takes a long time, though, before they are big enough and strong enough to hunt for themselves. From six months on, the cubs are fully weaned, and they start to follow their mother during the hunt.

Tiger mother (Panthera tigris) attending to her three young cubs at a natural waterhole during the hot summer at Bandhavgarh National Park ,Madhya Pradesh, India
Licensed from Shutterstock
Tiger mother (Panthera tigris) attending to her three young cubs at a natural waterhole during the hot summer at Bandhavgarh National Park ,Madhya Pradesh, India

Tigers generally have 2 or 3 cubs in a litter, and the mother’s hunting needs to increase significantly once they are eating solid food. As adults are solitary, the males do not help in the raising of cubs. Even the father can be a threat.

However, more recently, it has been seen in two tiger Reserves in India, Ranthambore and Panna, that a male has been ‘caring’ for his offspring after their mother died. While the fathers haven’t been teaching the cubs to hunt, they have both made uneaten kills in the cubs’ home range. This does suggest that paternal care exists, though it is not exactly clear evidence.

As the Indian sun beats down, Tigers (Panthera tigris) seek respite in the cooling waters of their territories. Pre-monsoon safaris offer great opportunities to spot these majestic creatures lounging by water holes, as their bathing options dwindle with the drying landscape.
Licensed from Shutterstock
As the Indian sun beats down, Tigers (Panthera tigris) seek respite in the cooling waters of their territories. Pre-monsoon safaris offer great opportunities to spot these majestic creatures lounging by water holes, as their bathing options dwindle with the drying landscape.

Who preys on Tigers?

The only threats to tigers are humans and, well, other bigger tigers. No other animal is silly enough to attack them. There isn’t a lot of tiger-on-tiger violence except when it comes to defending territories. Some males will attack cubs to bring the female back into oestrus, but it isn’t as common as in other species.

During a safari in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, the photographer captured a rare moment of Tiger (Panthera Tigris) cubs alongside their father. Unlike most feline species, tiger fathers occasionally display affection and interest in their offspring, showcasing a unique aspect of their behavior in the wild.
Licensed from Shutterstock
During a safari in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, the photographer captured a rare moment of Tiger (Panthera Tigris) cubs alongside their father. Unlike most feline species, tiger fathers occasionally display affection and interest in their offspring, showcasing a unique aspect of their behavior in the wild.

How long do Tigers live?

Tigers can live up to about ten years. However, the vast majority of cats die young. Significant numbers don’t survive to maturity due to the harshness of jungle life. However, the biggest problem lies in 2-3 year olds leaving their mothers and trying to define their own territories.

Over the majority of the tiger’s range, territories are limited by the encroachment of human settlements. The majority of tiger reserves in India are now ‘full’ and have no space left for the young to establish a new territory. There is, quite simply, a lack of suitable habitat for young tigers to move into.

This leads to the young tigers coming into close contact with humans, and unfortunately, tiger-human conflict ensues. Most often, this is to the detriment of the tiger.

A male tiger (Panthera tigris) finds respite from the summer heat by cooling off in the waters of Bandhavgarh National Park.
Licensed from Shutterstock
A male tiger (Panthera tigris) finds respite from the summer heat by cooling off in the waters of Bandhavgarh National Park.

Tigers and their ecosystem

Tigers are the apex predator in their ecosystems and are extremely important in the balance of nature.

Impact of Tigers on the human economy

Tiger skins used to have great economic value. However, that trade is fortunately disappearing, though there is still a black market for it. The illegal trade in body parts for medicine is, unfortunately, still economically viable.

Tigers do have economic value for tourism. A lot of the tiger reserves in India are quite a distance from centers of wealth and employment. The tourists the tigers attract bring with them economic value for the rural residents.

Tigers do have some adverse effects on humans. They eat us. However, this is extremely rare and is generally only because we have forced the tigers out of their habitat or because conservation successes mean that younger tigers are taking over the territories of older, weaker tigers, who are then forced to try and survive outside of overcrowded tiger reserves.

If you want to see Tigers (Panthera Tigris) in the wild, you need to head to India. Tiger safaris are quite easy to organize in a national park. You will notice be the only visitor when a tiger is spotted.
Licensed from Shutterstock
If you want to see Tigers (Panthera Tigris) in the wild, you need to head to India. Tiger safaris are quite easy to organize in a national park. You will notice be the only visitor when a tiger is spotted.

Conservation status and human impact on Tigers

The tiger is endangered, according to the IUCN. However, this doesn’t take into account the very perilous state of certain subspecies. Siberian tigers are critically endangered, and so is the Sumatran. Poaching and habitat loss are mostly to blame, the same as for most animals. The Bengal tiger in India is seeing something of a recovery in its numbers due to conservation successes, but the fragmented populations mean there is no room for complacency.

A tiger cub (Panthera tigris) descends a rocky staircase within Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Tigers in this reserve often utilize human structures, like temples and buildings, offering opportunities for iconic shots of tigers perched majestically atop these landmarks.
Licensed from Shutterstock
A tiger cub (Panthera tigris) descends a rocky staircase within Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Tigers in this reserve often utilize human structures, like temples and buildings, offering opportunities for iconic shots of tigers perched majestically atop these landmarks.

Other important information about Tigers

Tigers have numerous subspecies.

The most important are the Caspian tiger, which used to be in Europe but is extinct, the Javan tiger, now also extinct, and the Sumatran tiger, which is extremely endangered. The Siberian tiger living in Manchuria and Siberia is also critically endangered. The Bengal tiger, that of India, is still endangered, but the population is recovering well from a low point in the late 20th Century.

A tiger cub (Panthera tigris) taking a nap in a shallow stream within Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, seeking relief from the sweltering pre-monsoon heat. Tigers, known for their affinity for water, often indulge in bathing to stay cool during hot weather.
Licensed from Shutterstock
A tiger cub (Panthera tigris) taking a nap in a shallow stream within Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, seeking relief from the sweltering pre-monsoon heat. Tigers, known for their affinity for water, often indulge in bathing to stay cool during hot weather.

Tiger in French, German, Spanish ...

Latin Name
Panthera tigris
French Names
Tigre
German Names
Tiger
Spanish Names
Tigre
Swahili Names
Chui-milia

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