Tigers are very important in Asian cultures: they replace the lion as the 'King of Beasts' to represent fearlessness/wrath/royalty and the weretiger instead of the western werewolf. They are repeatedly used in literature for example: Jungle Book, Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, The Life of Pi and in adverts such as Frosties as Tony the Tiger.
The tiger is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, a martial art called Hung Ga is based on the movements of the Tiger and the Crane. In Imperial China, the tiger was the highest ranking general possible. The White Tiger is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations and represents the winter and autumn. In religions, tigers are significant in Hinduism and Buddhism; in Buddhism, the tiger is one of the Three Senseless Creatures and symbolises anger. In Hinduism, a much worshiped goddess named Durga rides her tiger, Damon, into battle.
Popular and well known in the world; they can be found on many coat of arms, mascots for sport teams or flags, national animals of many countries (e.g. India, Mayalsia, Bangladesh, North and South Korea, Nepal), ancient mythology and legends, and depicted in all sorts of movies.
Reaching up to 3.3 metres in length and 300 kg (660 lb) they are feared by any prey; like most big cats they will have a life span of 10-15 years and reach of about 20 years in captivity. Tigers are solitary animals and try to avoid others, however they may share kills even if they are unrelated or not their mate; therefore this shows tigers have a special relationship amongst all of them. A male's territory space is 60-100 squared kilometres and females of 20 squared kilometres. Males are not as tolerant of intruders as females are, however they may let a subordinate stay in their territory.
In India, the favourite prey consists of: wild boar, domestic and water buffalo, gaur, chital, sambar and nilgai; occasionally crocodiles, pythons, sloth bears and leopards may also be their victims. Elephants and rhinos may not be common prey but it has been witnessed that their offspring may be taken occasionally. Rarely, a tiger may become man-eaters but this usually happens once the tiger is incapable of catching its usual prey and is forced as an alternative to hunt humans.
A sad and unfortunate fact of these powerful animals is that now, out of 9 subspecies, only 6 remain and are all endangered or in some cases - critically endangered. Being highly adaptable, having habitats ranging from Siberian taiga to open grasslands to tropical mangrove swamps. Their habitat used to be incredibly large and wide in Asia and ranged from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Siberia and Indonesia; however today it is only 7% of what it used to be; in the past few decades, their range has further decreased by 41%. Today their range is now fragmented and now in small pockets around India and some parts of South-East Asia.
Tigers have a rusty-reddish or rusty-brown coat (but in some cases, are white), a white 'fringe' that covers some of the face, a whitish ventral and medial and the, very much recognised, distinct dark gray to black stripes. All tigers have at least 100 stripes however the pattern is unique for each cat like a human has their own unique fingerprint; however the main function of these stripes are for camouflage in the vegetation. An easy way of how to distinguish a male from a female, apart from the size and weight, is the size of the forepaw (a male will have a larger forepaw). Like most cats, they have a white spot on the back of the ears called an ocelli; this feature has a function to communicate the mental state of the tiger.
Mentioned earlier- Project Tiger, this effort has been in action since 1972 with Indira Gandhi leading. It has been very successful of transforming the population of only 1,200 tigers to 3,500 however poaching has reduced this by 60% to 1,411. This led to the Indian government donating a sum of $153 million to fund the project, set up a Tiger-Protection Force to combat poachers and to relocate 200,000 villagers to avoid tiger-human interactions. Eight more reserves are going to be added to the original 25; Tigers Forever is a project to ensure tigers live forever in the wild.
Siberian tigers were originally only 40 left in the wild; the Soviet Union then introduced very strict anti-poaching rules and protected zones (zapovedniks) that raised the population to several hundred. However the economy collapsed in 1990 and poaching resumed with logging occurring. When the local economy improved, it resulted in positive and negative outcomes for the tigers as more money could be invested into conservation efforts however it also resulted in an increase of development and deforestation. However the main obstacle to preserve these big cats is that they require a huge territory.
Tiger and leopard pelts were used traditionally for ceremonies and costumes however the current Dalai Lama of January 2006 taught a rule against using, buying or selling wild animals and their products; hopefully this will reduce the degree of poaching.
Save China's Tigers
This organisation secured the agreement of reintroducing South China tigers back into the wild in Bejing on the 26 November 2002. This agreement establishes a project to bring the captive bred tigers to South Africa so they can pick up their old hunting instincts and then be transferred to a reserve in China in 2010.
Article by RHN.