Today is international tiger day! And I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some interesting facts on one of the world’s most recognisable and loved animals.
Sadly every one of the living six tiger subspecies: Bengal, South China, Indochinese, Sumatran, Malayan and Amur are classified as at least “endangered” on the IUCN red list. Three subspecies are already extinct, the Java, Bali and Caspian – driven to extinction through habitat destruction, hunting and an increase in human population. But thankfully after a century of decline, tiger numbers are slowly but surely increasing. In 8 years Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park have seen their tiger numbers rise from 10 to 22 individuals, a small number maybe but successful none the less, with just 3,890 tigers reported living in the wild, every population increase is a step in the right direction!
Intrigued to find out more about the world’s biggest cat? Don’t miss my 10 facts below:
1) A typical tiger diet consists of various deer and wild boar, as well as monkeys, civets, buffalo and even fish, lizards and snakes. When favoured prey is difficult to find they may resort to eating rodents, small birds and insects – berries and grass also aid digestion.
2) Tigers’ hind legs are longer than their front, allowing them to jump powerfully. The muscles and ligaments in the hind legs are so well developed that they can jump 10 metres in one leap – that’s more than 32 feet!
3) The oldest discovered tiger species was unearthed in northwestern China and believed to be approximately 2.16 to 2.55 million years old – predating other known species by up to half a million years! The informal name of this jaguar sized species is Longdon tiger (Panthera Zdanskyi) and despite two million years of separation, scientists were surprised how similar the skull was to our modern day tigers – robust, well-developed upper canine fangs and a relatively long nose.
4) A tigress has a gestation period of 16 weeks (3.5 months) usually, they give birth to 3 or 4 cubs.
5) The Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger, is the largest of all wild cats in the world. Currently, they are listed as “endangered” on the IUCN list, with an estimated population of 400-500 individuals.
6) Tigers are the only bigs cats to have stripes – their skin is even striped too. Each and every animal can be identified by their own pattern of stripes, which is as unique to them as our own fingerprints are too us.
7) Tigers have night vision that is six times better than that of humans!
8) A tiger can run as fast as 35 mph (56km/h) but only for short distances, subsequently, most of their prey can outrun them, so that is why they’re ambush predators. For every 20 attempts at a kill, a tiger is only successful for one.
9) The main threat to tigers is poaching – their bones are used in traditional Chinese medicines, their pelts and other body parts like teeth, skin and claws as decorative items. Habitat loss and human-tiger conflict also seriously threaten the species.
10) Human beings have around 9,000 tastebuds in their mouths, meaning we have the luxury of being able to distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Cats (domestic and wild) on the other hand only have 500 and this is one of the major reasons why tigers are able to dine on a meal of rotting flesh. They can not taste the decaying meat as you or I would, so it doesn’t deter them.
According to Wildscreen Arkive, the tiger is 2nd in the World’s Favourite Species list – an unsurprising but worthy vote. I was shocked however to see who grabbed the number 1 slot, head over and check it out for yourself, it’s quite amusing!
Are tigers one of your favourite animals, let me know in the comments below?