Tiger Facts

Tiger Facts

Did you know? A century ago nine sub-species of tigers, perhaps about 100,000 individuals, roamed the face of the earth, thriving in a variety of habitats throughout Asia and parts of Europe.

In 2008 it was estimated that only 3,800 – 5,180 of these magnificent animals were left, confined to small and isolated ranges across Asia.

The tiger (Panthera tigris) has lived on this planet for more than two million years. Today tigers occupy only about 7% of their historical range.

Subspecies

There is only one species of tiger in the world – Panthera tigris, but it is divided up into nine distinct, geographically separate groups called subspecies.

Of the nine subspecies of tigers, three are now extinct -

Bali tiger (P.t. balica) Extinct: 1940s
Caspian tiger (P.t. virgata) Extinct: 1970s
Javan tiger (P.t. sondaica) Extinct: 1980s

 

 

Panthera tigris sumatrae

IUCN status: Critically endangered

The Sumatran tiger is is the smallest and darkest tiger subspecies and tends to be more bearded and maned than the other subspecies. It is the only remaining island living tiger in Indonesia and inhabits a landscape that ranges from submountain and mountain forest to lowland forest and peat forest.

Their range size is estimated at 52 km2 for a male and a much smaller 27 km2 for the female of the subspecies.

It is estimated that there are around 400 – 500  individual tigers wild in Sumatra in isolated pockets of protected land. Three of the protected areas are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites but all are in danger of losing this status due to theats from poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and planned road building.

Panthera tigris amoyensis

IUCN status: Critically endangered

The South China tiger was once found all over central and eastern China but is thought possibly to be extinct in the wild.

The South China tiger is one of the smallest tiger subspecies.  The current status of wild South China tigers is vague. Only 40 years ago there were reputed to be more than 4,000 tigers, but the government declared them pests, and they were hunted mercilessly.

In 1995 unconfirmed reports from the Chinese Ministry of Forestry suggests that the wild population is fewer than 20 individuals. The current situation is that no wild tigers have been seen anywhere by Chinese officials for more than 20 years.  The Ministry of Forestry lists 21 reserves within the presumed range of the tiger, and Chinese specialists believe between 20 and 30 tigers are still left in the wild. The last time a wild tiger was seen in the wild was in 1990.

Panthera tigris jacksoni

IUCN status: Endangered

This ninth subspecies was only identified as a unique subspecies  in 2004 and was named after Peter Jackson, the former Chair of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group.

The Malayan tiger is found only in the Malay Peninsula, southern tip of Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.  None are found in East Malaysia.

Distribution is sparse from the northern transboundary forests with Thailand to the most southern tip of continental Asia.  The majority of the tiger habitats are found in the four main states of Pahang, Perak, Terengganu and Kelantan.

  • Biologically the Malayan tiger is similar to the Indo-Chinese tiger, but the size is similar to the Sumatran tigers.
  • Tigers occur at very low densities 1.1-1.98 tigers per 100km2 in the rainforest as a result of low prey densities.
  • There are approximately 500 tigers left in the wild in Malaysia with a high proportion living outside the protected areas of the National Parks.

Panthera tigris corbetti

IUCN status: Endangered

N. Indochinese tiger are centered in Thailand and are also found in Myanmar, southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

They live in remote forests in hilly to mountainous terrain, much of which lies along the borders between countries. Access to these areas is often restricted, and biologists have only recently been granted limited permits for field surveys.  As a result, relatively little is know about the status of these tigers in the wild.

  •  An estimated 880–1230 Indo-Chinese tigers are left in the wild
  • Indochinese tigers generally occur in very low densities and have been poached severely in many parts of their range, and have disappeared from some reserves in Cambodia and Thailand in the last 10 years.

Panthera tigris tigris

IUCN status: Endangered

The Indian tiger lives in a wide range of habitats, including the high-altitude, cold, coniferous Himalayan forests, the steaming mangroves of the Bangladesh Sundarbans, the swampy reedlands, the scorched hills of the Indian peninsula, the lush wet forests of Northern India, and the arid forests of Rajasthan.

  • A healthy male Indian tiger has an average weight of 221 kg.
  • Their range size is much smaller than the Amur tiger and is estimated at 10-39 km2 for females and 30-105 km2 for males.

Tiger density and range size has been closely tied to prey availability and areas with high prey abundance support larger numbers of tigers with small territory sizes. Kaziranga, Nagrahole, Bandipur and Khana national parks in India are home to some of the highest densities of tigers in the world because of the abundancy of prey.

Panthera tigris altaica

IUCN status: Endangered

 

Wild Amur tigers are found primarily in two areas in the Russian Far East, the primary population covers 156,000 sq km in Primosky and Khabarovski Krais, and another small population occurs on the Russia-China border and into northeast China. There may be less than 400 individuals left.

  • In the Russian Far East the territory size of Amur tigers ranges from 100-400 km2 for females to 800–1,000 km2 for males.
  • Numbers of Amur tigers in China are unclear. According to a 1998 survey by WCS Russia in Northeast China, there were around 20 Amur tigers in Heilongjiang province and Jilin province.
  • Amur tigers are the second largest of the tiger subspecies, healthy male Amur tigers weigh, on average 176 kg.

Their orange colouring can be paler than the colouring of other tigers. They have a white chest and belly, and a thick white ruff of fur around their neck.   Indian and Amur tigers are considerably larger than other subspecies (Slaght et al. 2005).

For more information on Amur tigers and their conservation visit ALTA

For more reading about tiger numbers:

* ” How Many Wild Tigers Are There? An Estimate for 2008; John Seidensticker, Brian Gratwicke & Mahendra Shrestha; In Ronald Tilson and Philip Nyhus (eds.). Tigers of the World: The Science, Politics and Conservation of Panthera tigris. Elsevier, 2010

 

 Want to find out more? Look at our collection of  Tiger Conservation Articles