Wildlife Wednesday: International Tiger Day

31 Jul

Our Tigers are still in danger.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have lost over 95% of the world’s wild tiger population.  A very scary fact is that we have MORE tigers in captivity than there are roaming free in the wild. The reason we have lost so much of our wild tiger population is due to extensive hunting for trophies and use in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as across Asia, the snaring crisis poses a grave threat to tigers left in the wild.

For the first time in 100 years, there has been a slight increase in some wild tiger populations in Asia. Nonetheless, there are still only around 3,900 wild tigers left in the wild, and a lot of effort and work is still needed to ensure we don’t lose this species to extinction.

Some facts about this mesmerising animal

  • It is the largest cat species in the world.
  • The largest big cat is the Siberian Tiger weighing an astonishing 300kg!
  • To put it into perspective for anyone who has never seen a tiger in real life, only polar and brown bears are larger than they are!
  • There were 9 subspecies of tigers in the world, now only 6 remain as 3 are extinct.
  • Tigers are the only cat species that are completely striped, right through to their skin.
  • Like zebras here in Africa, Tiger stripes are completely unique to each individual, serving as their ‘fingerprint’!
  • Tigers don’t live in prides like lions do, they live solitary lives unless a mother is raising her cubs.
  • When hunting, tigers rely primarily on sight and sound, rather than smell.
  • White tigers are NOT a separate subspecies or albino. The term used for this condition is ‘leucism’, which is the loss of pigmentation rather than the absence of it.

Why should we protect tigers?

Tigers are a keystone species, not only because they are the biggest of the cat species and incredibly beautiful, but they are of significant ecological importance to humans. How so? Being apex predators, they control prey populations which in turn protects the vegetation, meaning that the health and integrity of forest ecosystems can prevail and continue to provide humans with clean air, water and food, and support local economies by providing job opportunities.

Some awesome facts to end off with about these beautiful big cats:

  • Tigers (and lions too) can roar louder than a gas lawnmower, which is about 114 decibels, and this roar can carry as far as 3.2km!
  • Unlike most big cats – or cats in general- tigers are powerful swimmers, using it not only as a means of survival but for fun too, often found playing in rivers and streams.

Article: Melissa Gomes

Photo creds: Johan van Zyl Photography (Ulovane Alumni)

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