Tigers in Crisis
The tiger, one of the most magnificent animals in the world, is also one of the most endangered species in the world. A cat of beauty, strength, and majesty, the tiger is master of all and subject to none — except humans. Of the eight original subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct within the last 60 years; and there are less than 50 South China tigers left on this planet – few, and possibly none, survive in the wild.
Tigers increasingly compete with expanding human population and industry for land and food, and many are killed by poachers who sell their skins and body parts as ingredients for traditional Chinese medicines. If these trends continue,the wild tiger may evolve from being an endangered species and off the endangered species list to become an extinct species.
A few of the remaining endangered subspecies may survive only in zoos; others will live only in stories, pictures and myths, never again to roam the earth.
Deep in the heart of Russia in late 1991, A large female Siberian tiger lay waiting in the wilderness beneath the dim silvery glare of a full moon rising up behind the clouds. The tiger was waiting for the opportunity to make a kill to feed her four growing cubs nearby in the brush.
Her ground color of reddish-ochre accented by her unique series of grayish-black stripes splashed within her creamy-white coat which kept her hidden well from her potential prey. Her powerful, muscular body, with curved baseball mitt-sized paws would help her in her fight for food. Her eyes pierced the darkness, her ears twitched with each sound she heard, and her tail extended to increase her senses. She was alert; she was ready for an antelope or a deer if it came her way.
The tiger did not know that she was being hunted, she was the prey. There was a poacher in the midst of her wilderness and before she would have a chance to feed or raise her young, her last cry could be heard throughout the forest. As the sun returned from beyond the horizon, the cubs ventured out to find their mother, only to discover her remnants scattered across the ground where she had once been.
Gently, the cubs tugged at their mother trying to make her respond to their touch. She lay lifeless. The tiger cubs were now orphaned, lost and alone, all because of the demand for their mother’s body parts for Chinese Traditional Medicine in a far off land.
The tiger, a critically endangered species, once lived in a vast region of wilderness that extended as far north as Siberia, as far south as the Indonesian island of Bali, as far west as Turkey, and as far east as the Russian and Chinese coasts. From icy cold mountains and forests to steamy, tropical jungles, the tiger species has adapted to a variety of terrain.
Unlike lions, leopards and cheetahs, tigers prefer to live in densely covered land where they can hide in tall grasses, camouflaged by their dark stripes, and ambush their prey.
In dense forests, it is easiest for a tiger to sneak up on prey when it is alone. Partly for this reason, unlike lions, tigers live solitary lives. Young tigers live with their mother until they are two or three years old — old enough to fend for themselves and find territories of their own. Territories can range from 10 to 600 square miles.
Largest of all cats, tigers are formidable predators. With razor sharp claws, long teeth, and powerful jaws and legs, tigers can bring down animals far heavier than themselves, including buffalo, deer and wild boar. The tiger’s speed and refined hunting skills also capture feasts of small prey, contributing to the 40 to 100 pounds (18 to 45 kg) of meat that tigers can eat in a day.
All tigers are striped. Like human faces, each tiger’s markings are unique. The large, male Siberian tiger can grow to 13 feet (4 meters) in length and weigh 700 pounds (317 kg). Their long tails help them keep their balance through fast running turns. Their tails are also used to communicate with other tigers.
Since 1900, the endangered tiger’s habitat and numbers have been reduced by up to 95 per cent. Poachers continue to poison waterholes or set steel wire snares to kill tigers and tiger prey, selling their skins and body parts for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Despite 20 years of international conservation efforts, we are losing ground to save the tiger as, on the endangered species list, all sub-species of tigers are considered critically endangered species.