The World’s Biggest Cats
And why they’re so important to save!
Just one reason why tigers are so beneficial: Healthy tiger habitats help mitigate (reduce) climate change
Healthy habitats for tigers provide fresh water to animals and even people who live around tiger populations, which can reduce the impact of natural disasters and improve the health of local people! A new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report details these often unseen benefits that come from helping tigers and improving their homes.
What you should to know about tigers
Tigers once ranged widely––from the Eastern Anatolia Region in the west, to the Amur River basin, and in the south from the foothills of the Himalayas to Bali in the Sunda islands.
But since the early 20th century, tiger populations have lost at least 93% of their historic range. They have been extirpated (wiped out) in Western and Central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and in large areas of southeast and south Asia and China. Today’s tiger range is fragmented, stretching from Siberian temperate forests to subtropical and tropical forests on the Indian subcontinent and Sumatra.
The tiger is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. As of 2015, the global wild tiger population was estimated to number between only 3,062 to 3,948 mature individuals (grown tigers), with most tiger populations living in small pockets isolated from each other. While these numbers may seem large to us, they are not––consider that only a century ago, tigers numbered in the 100,000s.
Major reasons for population decline are: habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, and poaching. Tigers are also victims of human–wildlife conflict, in particular, in countries with a higher human population density. India currently hosts the largest tiger population.
What makes tigers so amazing!
- Tigers are amazing for many reasons: they can hunt in the day or at night, in water or on land!
- The tiger mother has amazing endurance in caring for her cubs, and in protecting them from male tigers, considering that a male will eat cubs if needed for his own survival.
- They are also the biggest cats on the planet!
- But the most amazing thing of all is the tiger breed whose fur became white, and even rarer, black. Even orange tigers can sometimes have white cubs!
Here is a list of cool facts you probably didn’t know about tigers…
- Tigers are nocturnal animals, as in they prefer to do their most important activities at night.
- Tigers do not normally view humans as prey.
- Tiger cubs are born blind and only half of the cubs usually survive. (This is just one of the many reasons we need to help them.)
- Tigers love the water and like to spend a lot of their time in it, unlike most cats, who despise water.
- Tigers can only live to an age of 20-25 years; this shorter life span adds to the problem of their survival.
- A group of tigers is called an ambush or streak. Seeing tigers in such groups is rare, though, since tigers are very solitary.
- Tigers can also mate with other big cats. Example: A male tiger could mate with a female lion and have a hybrid baby, an animal of two types. This is very rare because usually tigers mate with their same species.
- Tigers have antiseptic saliva. This is very helpful to tigers, because the saliva can help prevent infection of a wound, so tigers will lick themselves to help prevent their wounds from getting infected.
- Tigers rarely roar, and if they live in a group, behave humbly toward the other tigers in their group.
- Unlike domestic cats, tigers cannot purr.
- Tigers can imitate the calls of other animals.
How parts of a tiger’s body help the tiger
- Padded paws make the tiger almost completely silent, which helps with their hunting.
- Retractable claws: tigers keep them retracted for walking and swimming, but extend them to climb and hunt. This helps them keep their claws sharp when they need them.
- A tiger’s eyes have large lenses and pupils that increase the amount of light let into the eye! This helps the tiger with night vision and when light levels are low, such as in shadowy areas.
- Stripes help tigers camouflage perfectly into their natural habitat, which is very beneficial when they hunt. And even if their fur rubs or falls off for any reason, the stripes are on their skin, so this effect is not lost.
What threatens tigers
Across their range, tigers face unrelenting pressures from poaching, retaliatory killings, and habitat loss. They are forced to compete for space with dense and often growing human populations.
Besides poaching, the WWF is fighting tigers being kept as pets, which is illegal in most places, but is still happening everywhere. It is not good for tigers; they are not meant to be kept as someone’s pets. Currently there are 3,900 tigers being kept as pets in the world, and that is a problem.
Another problem facing tigers is that people raise the tigers on illegal tiger farms, then kill them and sell their skins and body parts on the black market (an illegal market) for a considerable amount of money. The people who do this are tiger traffickers, and they are criminals. They use a criminal network to do this, one which needs to be traced so that the criminals can be identified and brought to justice.
These concerns facing tigers are what the WWF is primarily focused on. I implore you to subscribe to the WWF and/or donate to the cause.
What we can do to help tigers
Join forces with, and/or donate to, reputable organizations like the WWF who help tigers. Tx2 (Tigers x 2) is a WWF operation that started in 2010, and their goal is to double the amount of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger on the Asian Lunar Calendar.
Here is a list of active ways YOU can engage in NOW to help tigers!
- You can start a blog––like this one––in which you can make people aware of, and protest, the threats facing this amazing cat
- You could create a petition to send to the local government to ask for their support in donating to, and supporting, tigers
- You could make signs with facts about tigers and the threats they face, and ask local businesses you support to allow you to post these signs in their stores or give out printed information to their customers
- You can fundraise for organizations like WWF, who help protect big cats, by making and selling crafts at a local or online store