A century ago, tigers can be seen from eastern Turkey and the Caspian Sea through all parts of Asia. Now at the close of this century, their number is dwindling rapidly. They can only be found in sporadic areas of India, Nepal, Manchuria, China, and South East Asia. Tigers live in various types of habitat. They can survive in rainforests, mangrove swamps, grasslands, savannas, and mountain countries. There were about 100,000 tigers in existence, but now there are only 3,250 - 4,700 left in the wild. The South Chinese tiger is on the verge of extinction. It is estimated that there about 30 -80 of them left. [Worldwide Tiger Population]
Tigers are the largest cats in the world. They weigh between 250 - 700 pounds (113.4 - 317.5kg). At shoulder height, tigers measure about 3 feet (.91m). The length of tiger, including the tail and depending on the subspecies, is 7 -12 feet (2.13 - 3.65m). Living in the wild they can exist for 15 years, but in captivity they can live up to 20 years. The famous of all tigers are the Bengals. The body is orange with widely spaced black stripes. The belly part of it is white.
Tigers usually live alone. They are only together when mating time comes or when raising up cubs. The usual gestation period is 100 - 105 days. The females give birth to 2 - 4 cubs each time. The cubs weigh about 2 pounds (.91kg) at birth. At this time the cubs are totally dependent on the mother for food and protection. After 2 months they start to mature, but still rely on the mother. During this time the cubs play with other cubs of the territory. As the cubs become young tigers, they don't adhere to their mother any more. At this stage they learn to be good hunters as well as find new habitats. When they are 2 years old, the tigers are ready to set off on their own.
If there were 100 cubs born, 50 would not survive to be independent. They would either be killed by poachers or burned by local villagers. Of the 50 that do live to adulthood, maybe 30 of them will never establish territories.
Tigers tend to prey on large hoofed animals. They usually hunt by areas where there is a water source and a lot of grass. Deer, pigs, and antelopes most of the time spend they day there. The tiger would hide behind tall bushes where they can be camouflaged. Once they spot their prey, they furtively approach it within a radius of 30 - 60 feet (10 - 20m). When the prey does not notice them, they quickly rush toward it in top speed and bring it down. There are many methods when it comes to killing their prey. Tigers either bite in the throat, suffocate, or crush the neck and vertebrate of their victim.
Tigers are endangered because of the loss of habitat. Humans are clearing forests to ease the stress of population growth. By doing so tigers have less and less room to live and hide from hunters. Also tiger parts are sold for traditional medicine used. Parts like bone, blood, and skins are highly priced. A tiger is worth at least $60,000. In 1972 the World Wildlife Fund join up with the Indian government to save the dying tigers. This project was called "Operation Tiger." They plan to set aside reserves where tigers can grow and reproduce naturally without the fear of being killed. As a result the population of Bengal Tigers doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 since the last 20 years. In 1994 the United States had a trade sanction against Taiwan to stop tiger trading. In 1993 alone 1,100 pounds (500kg) of tiger bones were confiscated in New Delhi. Conservationists are still working hard to set up more reserves so the tiger population will increase in the future.