Tigers

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Tiger "caught" by a camera trap in Cambodia, 2004.
© WWF Species / DNCP

Biggest of the big cats

What
Tigers (Panthera tigris) are mammals of the Felidae family and one of four "big cats". They are superpredators and the largest and most powerful of the living cats. The Indian subcontinent is home to more than 80% of the wild tigers in the world.

Why
The tiger manages to combine a fierce and savage reputation with an  exquisite majesty. It inspires both fear and awe.

They are are formidable predators. Razor sharp claws, long teeth, and powerful jaws and legs, a single tiger can bring down animals far heavier than itself, including buffalo, deer and wild boar.

About
Tigers thrives in areas of dense vegetation with numerous sources of water and where there are large populations of ungulate prey (hooved animals).

Today only 5,000 to 7,000 tigers are estimated to remain.

Three tiger subspecies - the Bali, Javan, and Caspian have become extinct in the past 70 years.

The 5 remaining subspecies - Amur, Bengal, Indochinese, South China, and Sumatran - are almost all threatened with extinction.

In India a population of between 3,030 and 4,735 tigers exist. However, their number is fast decreasing due to the destruction of their natural habitat and the ever-present threat of poaching. A tiger skin can sell for as much as $10,000, its bones are sold as medicine and its eyes as good luck charms.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
India is the mecca for seeing tigers in the wild - but even there you cannot be guaranteed to a sight of its famous markings as it slips through the tall grasses.

Try to see one elsewhere (south east Asia, Russian Far East etc) and you'd be considered more than just lucky if you spotted one in the wild with your own eyes.

The tiger is listed as "endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and its population is thought to have fallen by 95% since the beginning of the 20th century.

If this trend continues, the tiger could very soon exist only in zoos, stories, pictures and myths.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward Parker
Tigers and other animals are threatened by continued poaching for traditional Chinese medicine.
© WWF-Canon / Edward Parker
Amur tiger (<I>Panthera tigris altaica</I>). / ©: WWF-Canon / Kevin Schafer
Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica).
© WWF-Canon / Kevin Schafer

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