The tiger is the largest cat species and reaches a body length up to 11 feet, weighing up to 670 pounds. Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical strips on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, and need large areas to support their prey requirements. Because they’re indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on earth, this has caused significant conflicts with humans.
Over the past 100 years they have lost 93% of their range and today they can be found from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. They have been classified as endangered with the population in the wild occurring in small pockets isolated from each other. The major reasons for their decline are habitat destruction and fragmentation, and poaching with a 41% decline since the mid-1990’s in the area they occupy.
The pattern of stripes is unique to each tiger and can be used by researchers to identify individuals, much the same as fingerprints are used for humans. The stripes function as camouflage and are also found on the skin of the tiger. If a tiger were to be shaved, its distinctive camo pattern would remain.
Adult tigers lead solitary lives and only congregate under special conditions, such as a plentiful supply of food. They maintain home ranges and confine their movements to a definite area – in the case of the tigress, those of her growing cubs. The size of the tiger’s home range depends mainly on prey abundance and access to females.
Tigers are strong swimmers and can be found in ponds, lakes, and rivers where they bathe and cool off. It appears there is no set rule they follow regarding territorial rights and though they tend to avoid each other, both male and female tigers often share kills. In contrast to lions, male tigers will allow females and cubs to feed on the kill first and behave quite amicably when sharing kills.
In conclusion, the global wild tiger population is anywhere between 3,062 to 3,948 individuals. In a poll conducted by Animal Planet, the tiger was voted the world’s favorite animal, narrowly beating the dog.
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