August 21, 2010

The plight of the Tiger

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The tiger is the largest cat species in the world and the largest subspecies is the Siberian tiger. The approximate weight of the male is five hundred pounds with a length of ten feet. Females grow up to three hundred pounds and eight feet long. Appearances of the tiger depend to a great extent on their habitat. Tigers that live in colder regions are more pale in color, larger in size and have much thicker fur. In warmer climates they are smaller and more colorful with shorter, thinner coats. Like all cats, tigers have razor sharp claws and are powerful, adept hunters.

Once the tiger’s habitat covered Java, Bali, the entire southern continent of and the eastern shores of Asia, east Turkey, the island of Sumatra and to the west of India. Today, tigers are not found west of India or on the islands of Java and Bali. The remaining tigers are in China, Southern Asia, and Russia’s far east. These are mostly isolated areas and tigers are greatly reduced in numbers.

Depending on geographic location, tigers can be found in a variety of habitats. They range from tropical forests, evergreen forests, ravines, woodlands, mangrove swamps, grasslands and savannas to rocky country. Some other preferred habitats include dense thickets, long grass or tamarisk shrubs along river banks. Tigers rely on concealment for stalking and ambushing their prey. They can move quickly and quietly, springing on unsuspecting animals with ease. Tigers can cover fifteen feet (4.5 meters) in one leap and adapt well to many different surroundings so long as they have sufficient water, adequate shade and an ample food source.

Tigers usually stalk their meals alone and generally are nocturnal hunters. The tiger leaps on an animal, usually from the rear and clings to the hide of its unsuspecting prey with curved razor claws. It then clamps down on the throat with its powerful jaws. If a large animal is taken down, the tiger feeds on it for many days and during this time, the tiger does not kill again. Tigers prey on deer, moose, rabbits, birds, fish, bear, elk, lynx, hare, pigs, cattle, goats, and some smaller animals. The main food sources for tigers are buffalo, antelope, and rodents with the main target of attack being stragglers from a herd or the weakest member thereof.

Tiger cubs are born after a three to four month gestation period and usually between February and May. The cubs weigh under three pounds at birth, they are striped and open their eyes to the world in about two weeks. Litters consist of one to four cubs, occasionally up to six, however only two to three will survive. The mother is responsible for defending her cubs, while the father hunts for food. New males entering a female tiger’s territory may kill her her cubs, so she must be ever vigilant. Her cubs are weaned in between four to six months, but will depend on her for food and protection for almost another two years. Most cubs learn to hunt at only sixteen months. The life span of a tiger is in between fifteen and sixteen years in the wild yet some in zoos have lived to be around 20 years old.

The tiger has few enemies in the wild. Humans have been the only reason for the startling decline in their numbers, however they have been know to battle large buffalo, elephants and bears. Aside from being fierce predators and dangerous fighters, they are excellent swimmers and climbers, which can help aid them in eluding other predators or larger animals. The tiger is a very intelligent and cautious animal. They do not like to hunt larger animals than themselves unless the need for food is very great.

Again, the only real predator of the tiger is man. Tigers have been heavily hunted by humans not only to eliminate threats to livestock, but also for sport, trophies, skins, and sources of traditional medicines. A necklace of tiger claws are thought to protect a child from “the evil eye” in parts of Asia. Tiger whiskers are considered a dreadful poison in Malaysia, a powerful aphrodisiac in Indonesia, or an aid to childbirth in India and Pakistan. The bones, fat, liver and penis of tigers are prized by the believers in traditional Asian medicine.

Humans have also encroached on the tiger’s habitat immensely, destroying a good portion of their feeding range by cutting down trees, moving into their preferred locations, polluting water sources and hunting their prey to dangerously low numbers as well.


The tiger population of the Indian subcontinent has suffered a serious decline in the last fifty years. It is estimated that only two hundred tigers survived in Nepal, and only four thousand in India. In the 1990’s, poaching escalated in China and Korea in spite of the Chinese ban on tiger products in 1993. At one point in the 1970’s, tiger numbers had declined to four thousand total, compared to one hundred thousand in the early 1900’s. Today, the world tiger population still only numbers about five to seven thousand animals. An intense effort is under way to save the endangered species, yet unfortunately, tigers are still illegally hunted for the same reasons that they always were. They have been hunted to near extinction by poachers, and all subspecies have been declared endangered. Several subspecies have already been wiped from the face of our world only in the past century due to human brutality.

Whilst doing our research on this subject, we were ashamed and astonished to learn that eight tiger subspecies have gone extinct in only about the last sixty or seventy years. It pains us to see our mark on this world. A proud and beautiful creature is being wiped away by our indifference toward the value in the preservation of all life.

Please sign the Change.org International petition to stop the tiger trade here.

Thank you for reading my words and I ask that you get involved for the sake of our posterity to save the Tiger.

The AELLA TEAM