Tigers are one of the most distinctive species on our planet. With huge black stripes on an orange coat, they blend in well to their forest homes in order to become supreme hunters. Tigers are a similar size to lions with the largest individuals being found in Siberia – weighing in at a hefty 660lb – and the smallest – almost half that weight – inhabiting the forests of Sumatra.
The Malayan tiger is recognised as a subspecies due to the fact that they have distinctive DNA from the Indochina species. Despite this, there are no noticeable physical differences, either in the size and shape of the skull, or the coat patterns, to distinguish individuals.
Tigers once ranged across Asia from Turkey all the way to the eastern coast of Russia but in 100 years they have been lost from southwest and central Asia, from two Indonesian islands (Java and Bali) and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. They are now only found in 7% of their historical range. And sadly of the eight sub-species that exist, three of them are already extinct with the South China tiger teetering on the bring with just 20-30 animals left. Of the Malayan tigers between 1000 and 2000 individuals are thought to remain.
By four years old female tigers are ready to breed. They usually give birth to 2-3 cubs after 100 days gestation. The cubs then become independent when they are 1.5-2 years old.
Like other big cats, tigers are hugely skilled in stalking, ambushing and killing their prey, which is usually larger than they are. Wild ungulates such as deer and wild cattle are a favourite prey though they will also take smaller animals such as monkeys, badgers and even fish.
Tigers can be found in tropical rain forests, tall grasslands, mangrove swamps and temperate and boreal forests. Their commonality is the fact that the tall grasses, plants or trees throw vertical shadows that enable the tiger to hunt under cover.
Illegal trade in tiger skins, bones, meat and tonics is a huge threat to the species, and has led to their recent disappearance from large areas of otherwise suitable habitat.
Asia is a densely populated and rapidly developing region and much of the tigers’ native forest home is being lost to agriculture, commercial logging, and human settlements. As the forest dwindles so too does the tigers’ natural prey base at which point they begin to hunt livestock. This creates huge conflict between local communities and the big cats.
In 2010, the Year of the Tiger, the species was made the focus of substantial conservation effort and investment. At a “Tiger Summit” held in St. Petersburg the 13 Tiger Range Countries adopted a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP 2010). The goal is to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 through:
- protecting habitat
- eradicating poaching and illegal trade
- work together on transboundary landscape management
- involve local communities
- improve habitat management
- restore tigers to their former range.
Rueben Clements, Malaysia
Malayan tiger, clouded leopard, black leopard
Small worldwide grant