The Disappearing Stripes In the Year of The Tiger

2010 according to the Chinese Lunar calendar is the “Year of the Tiger” , The Tiger is the third sign in the Chinese Zodiac cycle, and it is a sign of bravery. Yet the Tiger population in the wild is steadily declining… China is one of the major consumers of Tiger parts from bone to skin. Illegal poaching and logging is threatening to wipe out this magnificent being from the wilderness.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” by those standards I wonder how many nations could be considered as making progress, I believe most of us are regressing to levels unknown… Why is it that we human’s consider the suffering of animals as lesser than that of a fellow human? Is it because they don’t speak out language? Don’t they bleed when cut and don’t they cry when hurt… wonder when humanity will open its eyes to the reality that animals like humans  have a place on this earth all their own and they have a right to be here as much as we do.

This week in meet an earthling I thought we will look at one of my favorite cats – The Tiger Panthera tigris. Tigers were found all across Asia from Eastern Turkey to the Caspian Sea south of the Tibetan Plateau, Eastward to Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk, in Northern Iran, Indus valley of Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and the  islands of Java and Bali. Now they are pretty much restricted to some parts of India, North eastern China, Korea, Indonesia, parts of Russian Siberia and the foothills of the Himalayas.

Tiger distribution map Courtesy wikipedia

There are eight recognized species of the Panthera tigris of which 3 are already extinct. The eight are as follows (the ones striked off are extinct and the ones in red are endangered.)

  1. Panthera tigris altaica – The Amur Tiger (earlier called the Siberian Tiger) EXTREMELY ENDANGERED 300 in the wild
  2. Panthers tigris tigris – Bengal Tiger ENDANGERED 1800 in the wild
  3. Panthera tigris corbetti – Indo-Chinese tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  4. Panthera tigris amoyensis – South-central Chinese Tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  5. Panthera tigris sumatrae – Sumatran Tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  6. Panthera tigris balica – Bali Tiger
  7. Panthera tigris sondaica – Javan Tiger
  8. Panthera tigris virgata – Trans Caucasus Tiger

Tigers are one of the 4 big cats of the family Panthera. They are one of the most exquisite cats around and one of the most identifiable. In the zoos they are a favorite with most of the visitors and yet in spite of all this attention their numbers in the wild have been dwindling drastically. Human encroachment on habitats and the use of tiger parts in ancient traditional medicine are the main reasons for their numbers dwindling in the wild.

Tigers are big cats, the length varies between 6’8″ (Sumatran) to 9′ plus (Siberian) and weigh between 170lbs (Sumatran) to 700 lbs (Amur).

Tigers have a reddish-orange coat with vertical black stripes along the flanks and shoulders that vary in size, length, and spacing. Some subspecies have paler fur and some are almost fully white with either black or dark brown stripes along the flanks and shoulders. The underside of the limbs and belly, chest, throat, and muzzle are white or light. White is found above the eyes and extends to the cheeks. A white spot is present on the back of each ear. The dark lines about the eyes tend to be symmetrical, but the marks on each side of the face are often asymmetrical. The tail is reddish-orange and ringed with several dark bands.

Tiger habitats include sufficient cover, proximity to water, and an abundance of prey sources. Bengal Tigers live in many types of forests, including wet; evergreen; the semi-evergreen of Assam and eastern Bengal; the mangrove forest of the Ganges Delta; the deciduous forest of Nepal, and the thorn forests of the Western Ghats. The tiger prefers denser vegetation, for which its camouflage coloring is ideally suited, and where a single predator is not at a disadvantage.

Fun facts:

  • Tigers are a Keystone species and are Apex Predators – i.e. they have no natural predators other than humans.
  • Tigers are the only big cats other than Jaguars which like to swim. It spends a lot of time in water when the temperature gets too warm and will also follow a prey into the water or carry dead prey across lakes.
  • Tigers can swim up to 4 miles!
  • Tigers are mostly solitary unless they are females with their litter.
  • The pattern of stripes is unique to each tiger, and thus could potentially be used to identify individuals like we use finger prints to identify people.
  • They are the heaviest cats in the wild with some Amur Tigers reaching a whopping 700pounds!
  • Retinal adaptation that reflects light back to the retina makes the night vision of tigers six times better than that of humans.
  • Bengal Tigers have the longest incisors  of any living cat; 3-4″ in length!!
  • Tigers are solitary and do not associate with mates except for mating.
  • Mothers and cubs stay together until the cubs are 2-3 years old i.e. ready to hunt and take care of themselves.
  • Longevity 8-10 years in the wild.
  • A Tiger roar (chuff) can be heard up to 2 miles away.
  • Around early 1900’s the number of Bengal tigers in India was approximated to be around 50,000; by 1972 it had dropped to 1800! through diligent efforts to conserve their habitat and protect the remaining tigers the numbers have climbed back to around 4000 by 2004… Even now there is poaching in the protected areas which is going un-punished and un-accounted which has resulted in the latest census of tigers at 1300-1500 tigers. . One example is the Jhurjhura tigress who had 3 cubs, was living in Bandhavgarh in India, a protected and well know Tiger Preserve and was mowed down by Government vehicles in the night check out this link and make yourself heard if you care.


If we do not take a stand this magnificent animal will become extinct in our life time… I shudder just thinking about, I believe we owe it to the coming generations that we work together to clean up our messes and leave the earth as intact as possible with all the species diversity it possesses. I can’t understand how human’s think it is alright to use an animals skin… to me it is unthinkable using another living beings skin as a cover as I believe the animal has the skin to protect itself same like us.

Live Green, live aware… Help the organizations which work on our behalf to save these magnificent animals that I believe is the least we can do…

Something Hopeful to end today’s post with; The Global Tiger Initiative which will be meeting in St.Petersburg Russia from September 14th through September 18th.

The Website states their goal as ” We aspire to a world where, by 2020, wild tigers across Asia will no longer face the risk of extinction – and will live in healthy populations within high conservation value landscapes that are managed sustainably for present and future generations.”

So may be stronger measures will be taken and we will end up protecting the tiger…

Image Credits @ spisharam

A Foot Note – I will write about each species of Tiger in detail starting next week.

9 thoughts on “The Disappearing Stripes In the Year of The Tiger

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  2. Siberian tiger

    Siberian tigers and South China tigers are the most endangered cat species in the world. In the wild they were fewer than three thousand, and their number is constantly decreasing. People hunt them for their fur and because of traditional Asian medicine. It would be a shame that these amazing animals are gone forever, and remain only in stories.

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