International Tiger Day 2017 - Some Roarrr-Some Facts About These Fierce Felines!

International Tiger Day 2017 - Some Roarrr-Some Facts About These Fierce Felines!

Posted by Phoebe Codling on Jul 29, 2017

Today’s the day! July 29th marks International Tiger Day and I couldn’t be happier about it – tigers are one of my absolute favourite animals (you can thank my Tigger teddy for that), and these stunning creatures have unsurprisingly been voted the world’s favourite animal several times! Tigers are undoubtedly one of the world’s most celebrated and symbolic animals; gracing logos, flags and even cereal boxes all around the world. These beautiful creatures are worshipped by many cultures, particularly in China, and are regarded as extremely symbolic. As one of the 12 Chinese Zodiacs and one of the Chinese constellations (the White Tiger of the West), it is easy to see that tigers have almost deity-like status in China alone. But despite their traditional significance in China and across the world, numbers of these majestic animals have dropped to the point where there are now less than 4000 left in the wild.

Even though we see tigers allllll the time on cartoons, sporting logos and cereal boxes (Tony the Tiger, I’m looking at you!), many people don’t know the basics about these fab felines and we can’t have that now can we? So today we’re going to delve a little deeper into what makes tigers tick, and why numbers have dropped so rapidly in the past 100 years. First up, we all know tigers are blessed with their trademark stripes alongside that gorgeous auburn fur right? Did you know that these markings are completely unique to the individual, so no tiger has the same stripe pattern, isn’t that amazing? This distinctive coat is an act of camouflage, enabling them to stalk their prey largely undetected. Tigers are extremely skilled predators, right at the top of the food chain, and are able to kill much larger animals up to twice their own size with ease. Preferring to hunt at night; deer, water buffalo and elephant calves are their dinner of choice, though they are partial to the odd sloth and snake if they crop up whilst out hunting.

Now, you can imagine that if a tiger’s tea of choice is a deer, they must be pretty hefty themselves right? Of the six surviving tiger sub-species (three subspecies are now extinct), the largest is the Siberian Tiger which are on average 3.3 metres long and weigh 660 lbs. Siberian tigers are the world’s largest cats, and luckily whilst they are endangered, their current trend level is regarded as stable according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, the Bengal Tiger (which is similar in size to the Siberian but usually slightly heavier) is currently on a downward trend, though despite this it is still the most populous species of tiger found in the wild today. Roaming Southeast Asia’s tropical forests (except China and Pakistan), there are thought to be approximately 2500 Bengal tigers left in the wild. In comparison, there are only around 500 Siberian tigers remaining, where they prefer the harsher climate and dense forests of Eastern Russia, and occasionally North Korea.

Whilst the Bengal and Siberian are most renowned sub-species of tiger; the Indo-Chinese, South China, Sumatran and Malayan tigers also roam Southeast Asia, and these make up at least a third of all the tigers that still survive in the wild. Unfortunately, all tigers are now regarded at the very least as endangered, with the Sumatran/Malayan considered to be critically endangered. This essentially means that they are on the cusp of extinction in the wild, and without further intervention it is very likely that the other sub-species will follow suit.

Now, we all know that a vast majority of the world’s animal kingdom is at threat from human intervention, and as our population continues to grow, alongside dangerous poaching habits, deforestation and climate change, our beautiful tiger population is at more risk than ever. Simply put, something needs to change. Currently, the biggest issue is habitat loss. Tigers have lost an incredible 93% of their historical range simply due to loss of habitat. As we all know very well, our own population is rising rapidly, and human intervention in a tiger’s habitat is becoming more prevalent. Deforestation for timber, human settlement and new road networks means that tigers are rapidly running out of places to call home. This in turn means that once tiger-dominated areas are now dominated by people and their own communities. Tigers are predators first and foremost, and naturally decide to kill livestock/pets whilst out hunting. This unfortunately leads to ‘revenge killing’ of tigers – although unfortunately this brutal practice against tigers is not that unusual, as tigers are one of the main victims of illegal poaching. Despite their sacred and worshipped status in Indochina, tigers are poached for all manners of things, with poachers pretty much stripping them down to the bone. Body parts and bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine, tiger skin for rugs and fur for clothing. This barbaric practice is worth millions of dollars on the black market, and is a lucrative trade for the many partaking. Tigers are referred to as ‘walking gold’, and unfortunately despite its illegality it is still extremely prevalent, particularly in China, where at least 1000 tigers have been murdered senselessly over the past ten years.

Lastly, the other main threat to tigers is a less obvious reason – climate change. Directly linked to habitat loss, rising sea levels are becoming an issue and fast. An area named the Sundarbans, (a UNESCO world heritage site and literally translated as ‘beautiful forest’) on the coast of Bangladesh is at serious risk of being completely devastated in the next 60 years due to rapidly rising sea levels. The level is expected to increase by around 11 inches by 2070, which would lead to a decrease of around a whopping 96% of the remaining tiger population in this area. Without intervention, and fast, the Bengal tiger population in particular is likely to drop even further in the coming years.

So, with that information under your belt, I think it’s pretty clear something needs to be done. Tigers are one of the most beautiful and majestic creatures to grace our planet, but they are obviously under severe threat. So, what can we do? Like always, educate yourself and others. Spread the word, and get involved! Adopting a tiger is so easy and a fab idea for an unusual present. Or how about bag packing at a local supermarket to raise some money? Tiger charities need all the help they can get, and even the little things are a massive help! And why not take a look at the incredible conservation projects we offer and get the chance to see these stunning creatures up close, whilst making a positive and caring contribution.


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