Tigers are one of the most elegant wildlife species to exist on the planet. These apex predators are noted for their agility, power and strength. The striped wild cat is, however, declining in population due to loss of habitat, illegal wildlife trade, increasing animal-human conflict and more.
International Tiger Day is celebrated to draw attention to the magnificent species and how they are threatened with extinction. Marked on 29 July annually, the day aims to highlight the need for conservation of tigers and how governments, individuals and organisations can help in the endeavour.
On World Tiger Day, here are some interesting facts about the wild cat:
- Tigers are the biggest wild cats on the planet.
- There are only few subspecies of the wild cat left- Bengal tiger, Amur tiger, Malayan Tiger, Indochinese Tiger and Sumatran Tiger. Three species- Javan, Bali and Caspian tigers- have already gone extinct. The South China Tiger is believed to be functionally extinct by the World Wildlife Fund.
- The population of tigers has shrunk over the past century, with only 3,900 of these predators alive in the wild. The species has been classified as 'endangered' because of this.
- Currently, there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than the total population of the species in the wild. As per estimates, there are about 5,000 captive tigers in the US.
- These predators can travel 6-12 miles in a night for hunting. They can sprint at about 49–65 km/h for short bursts.
- According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 8,000 tigers are being held in tiger “farms” and breeding centres, with roughly three-quarters of the number in China itself. These commercial captive breeding efforts perpetuate the demand for tiger products and are a cover for illegal wildlife trade as well.
- A group of tigers is called a streak or an ambush.
- These wild cats are extremely protective over their kill. A tiger does not usually feast at the kill site but instead drags its prey into cover before eating it. If it leaves for a while, the tiger will cover the carcass by putting dirt, grass, leaves or even rocks over it.
- Tigers cannot purr.
- The apex predators primarily hunt deer, but they can also eat wild boars, fish, birds, amphibians, rodents, reptiles, and even insects. A large deer can provide a tiger with food for about a week.