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Information about Siberian TigerThe Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is also known as the Amur, Manchurian, Altaic, Korean, North China or, Ussuri tiger. Though it once ranged throughout Western and Central Asia and eastern Russia, it is now completely confined to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai in far eastern Siberia, where it is now protected. It is the biggest of the eight recent tiger subspecies and the largest living felid. Genetic research in 2009 (8 years ago) revealed that the current Siberian Tiger population is almost identical to the Caspian tiger, a now extinct western population once thought to have been a distinct subspecies.
The captive population of Siberian Tiger comprises several hundred. A majority of these tigers are found in China, with other populations in Europe and North America. The large, distinctive and powerful cats are popular zoo exhibits. The Siberian Tiger is bred within the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a project based on 83 wild caught tigers. According to most experts, this population is large enough to stay stable and genetically healthy. Today, approximately 160 Siberian tigers participate in the SSP, which makes it the most extensively bred tiger subspecies within the program. There are currently no more than around 255 tigers in the tiger SSP from three different subspecies. Developed in 1982 (35 years ago), the Species Survival Plan for the Siberian Tiger is the longest running program for a tiger subspecies. It has been very fortunate and productive, and the breeding program for the Siberian Tiger has actually been used as a good example when new programs have been designed to save other animal species from extinction.
The Siberian Tiger is not very difficult to breed in captivity, but the possibility of survival for animals bred in captivity released Into The Wild (9 walls) is small. Conservation efforts that secure the wild population are therefore still imperative. If a captive bred Siberian Tiger were to be released Into The Wild (9 walls), it would lack the necessary hunting skills and starve to death. Captive bred tigers can also approach humans and villages, since they have learned to associate humans with feeding and lack the natural shyness of the wild tigers. In a worst-case scenario, the starving tigers could even become man-eaters. Since tigers must be taught how to hunt by their mothers when they are still cubs, a program that aimed to release captive bred Siberian tigers Into The Wild (9 walls) would face great difficulties.
Attacks on humans
Unlike the Bengal Tiger (6 walls), the Siberian Tiger very rarely becomes a man-eater. Several cases of attacks on humans were recorded in the 19th century, occurring usually in central Asia (excluding Turkmenistan), Kazakhstan and the Far East. Siberian tigers were historically rarely considered dangerous unless provoked, though in the lower reaches of Syr-Darya, a tiger reportedly killed a woman collecting firewood and an unarmed military officer in the Jun. period whilst passing through reed thickets. Attacks on shepherds were recorded in the lower reaches of Ili. In the Far East, during the middle and third quarter of the 19th century, attacks on man were recorded. In 1867 (150 years ago) on the Tsymukha River, tigers killed 21 men and injured 6 others. In China's Jilin Province, tigers reportedly attacked woodsmen and coachmen, and occasionally entering cabins and dragging out both adults and children. According to the Japanese Police Bureau in Korea, in 1928 (89 years ago), a tiger claimed only one human victim, unlike leopards which claimed three, wild boars four and wolves 48. Only six cases were recorded in 20th century Russia of unprovoked attacks leading to man-eating behaviour. Provoked attacks are however more common, usually the result of botched attempts at capturing them.
In an incident at the San Francisco Zoo on 25 dec. 2007 (10 years ago), a Siberian Tiger named Tatiana escaped and killed one visitor, injuring two others. The animal was shot dead by the police. The zoo was widely criticized for maintaining only a 12 1/2 ft. (3.8m) fence around the tiger enclosure, while the international standard is 16 ft. (4.8m). The zoo subsequently erected a taller barrier topped by an electric fence. Whether the tiger was provoked is very much in dispute, but police say that one of the victims admitted to taunting the animal.
The pelage of the Siberian Tiger is moderately thick, coarse and sparse compared to that of other felids living in the former Soviet Union. Compared to now extinct westernmost populations, the still living Far Eastern Siberian Tiger's summer and winter coats contrasts sharply compared to other subspecies. Generally, the coat of now extinct western populations was brighter and more uniform than that of Far Eastern populations. The summer coat is coarse, while the winter coat is denser, longer, softer and silkier. The winter fur often appears quite shaggy on the trunk, and is markedly longer on the head, almost covering the ears. The whiskers and hair on the occiput and the top of the neck is also greatly elongated. The background colour of the winter coat is less bright and rusty compared to that of the summer coat, and tends to be more ocherous. Due to the winter fur's greater length, the stripes appear broader with less defined outlines. The summer hair on the back is 15-17 mm long, 30-50 mm along the top of the neck, 25-35 mm on the abdomen, and 14-16 mm on the tail. The winter fur on the back is 40-50 mm, 70-110 mm on the top of the neck, 70-95 mm on the throat, 60-100 mm on the chest and 65-105 on the abdomen. The whiskers are 90-115 mm.
Size and weight
The Siberian Tiger is typically 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) taller at the shoulders than the Bengal Tiger (6 walls), which is about 107-110 cm (42-43 in) tall. Mature males reach an average head and body length of 190-230 centimetres (75-90 in). The largest male with largely assured references was 350 cm (138 in) "over curves" (3,30 m/130 in. between pegs) in total length. Females are normally smaller than males and weigh 100-167 kg (220-368 lb), probably up to 180 kg (400 lb). The bodies of now extinct western populations were generally less massive than that of their Far Eastern cousins, and their average size was slightly less. In Turkestan, male tigers exceeded 200 cm in length, though an estimated body length of 270 cm was recorded. Females were smaller in size, normally ranging between 160-180 cm. The maximum known weight was 240 kg. Although tigers from Turkestan never reached the size of Far Eastern tigers, there are records of very large individuals of the former population. The tail length in fully grown males is about 1 m (39 in). Weights of up to 318 kg (700 lb) have been recorded and exceptionally large males weighing up to 384 kg (847 lb) are mentioned in the literature but, according to Mazak, none of these cases can be confirmed via reliable sources. A further unconfirmed report tells of a male tiger shot in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in 1950 (67 years ago) weighing 384.8 kg (846.6 lb) and measuring 3.48 m (11.5 ft).
The "Siberian Tiger Project", which has operated from Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik since 1992 (25 years ago), found that 215 kg (474 lb) seemed to be the largest that they were able to verify, albeit from a limited number of specimens. According to modern research of wild Siberian tigers in Sikhote-Alin, an average adult male tiger (>35 months) weighs 167.3 - 185.7 kg (the average asymptotic limit, computed by use of the Michaelis-Menten formula, gives 222.3 kg for male tigers) and an adult tigress – 117.9–122.6 kg, respectively. The mean weight of historical Siberian tigers is supposed to be higher: 215.3-260 kg for male tigers. At least one authority suspects that this is the difference between real weights and hunter's estimates. Dale Miquelle, program director of the Siberian Tiger Project, writes that, despite repeated claims in the popular literature that the Siberian is the largest of all tigers, their measurements on more than fifty captured individuals suggest that body size is, in fact, similar to that of Bengal tigers.
The skull of the Siberian Tiger is distinguished by its larger overall size, as well as the great development of its sagittal crest, whose height and strength exceeds that of other tigers and the lion. Maximum skull length in Amur male tigers is 361.8-383 mm, while the females range from 279.7-310.2 mm. The skull length of the males of Turkestan had a maximum length of 297.0-365.8 mm, while that of females was 195.7-255.5 mm. On Jan. 10, 1954 (63 years ago), a tiger killed on the Sumbar in Kopet-Dag had a skull greatest length of 385 mm, which is considerably more than the known maximum for this population and slightly exceeds that of most Far Eastern tigers. However, it condylobasal length was of only 305 mm, smaller than those of the Amur tigers, with a maximum recorded condylobasal length of 342 mm. Based on skull measurements, it appears that the biggest Siberian tigers came from Manchuria, where today the cats are reduced to a handful of individuals. The largest Manchurian skull on record measures 406 mm in length, which is about 20-30 mm more than the maximum skull lengths achieved by tigers from the Amur region and northern India.
A Siberian tigress with a cub at Buffalo ZooSiberian tigers reach sexual maturity at four years of age. They mate at any time of the year. A female signals her receptiveness by leaving urine deposits and scratch marks on trees. She will spend a week with the male, during which she is receptive for three days. Gestation lasts from three to 3½ months. Litter size is normally three or four cubs but there can be as many as six. The cubs are born blind in a sheltered den and are left alone when the female leaves to hunt for food.
Cubs are divided equally between genders at birth. However, by adulthood there are usually two to four females for every male. The female cubs remain with their mothers longer, and later they establish territories close to their original ranges. Males, on the other hand, travel unaccompanied and range farther earlier in their lives, thus making them more vulnerable to poachers and other tigers.
Several reports have been published since the 1990 (27 years ago) on the genetic makeup of the Siberian Tiger and its relationship to other subspecies. One of the most important outcomes has been the discovery of low genetic variability in the wild Far Eastern population, especially when it comes to maternal or mitochondrial (mtDNA) lineages. It seems that a single mtDNA haplotype almost completely dominates the maternal lineages of wild Siberian tigers. On the other hand, captive cats appear to show higher mtDNA diversity. This may suggest that the subspecies has experienced a very recent genetic bottleneck caused by human pressure, with the founders of the captive population being captured when genetic variability was higher in the wild. However, it may well be that the Siberian Tiger population has always shown relatively low genetic diversity, due to a small number of founders colonising the Far East. Work with the preserved remains of the now extinct Caspian Tiger (P.t. virgata) has shown that the two subspecies share a comparatively recent common history, at least when it comes to mtDNA lineages. It appears that tigers colonised central Asia at most 10,000 years ago, and the modern Siberian stock may be the result of a few Caspian tigers subsequently wandering east via northern Asia.
New genetic analysis revealed that the extinct Caspian tiger lives on in the Siberian Tiger. Researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom collected tissue samples from 20 Caspian tiger specimens kept in museums across Eurasia. Afterwards, researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in Frederick, Maryland, sequenced parts of five mitochondrial genes. The Caspian Tiger's mitochondrial DNA is only one letter of genetic code separated from Siberian Tiger DNA, while it is readily distinguishable from the DNA of other tiger subspecies. This indicates that the Caspian and the Siberian subspecies are really one. The scientists have concluded that the two are so similar because both were descended from the same migrating ancestor. The ancestor colonized Central Asia via the narrow Gansu Corridor (Silk Road) from eastern China. The researchers suggest that through the early 1900s, Caspian and Siberian Tiger populations intermingled, but hunters subsequently isolated the two groups. This resulted in the Siberian population splitting off from the Caspian population only in the past century.
HistoryThe Tungusic people considered the Siberian Tiger a near-deity and often referred to it as "Grandfather" or "Old man". The Udege and Nanai called it "Amba". The Manchu considered the Siberian Tiger as Hu Lin, the king. The most elite unit of the Chinese Imperial Army in Manchu Qing Dynasty is called Hu Shen Yin, literally The Tiger God Army.
In the early years of the Russian Civil War, both Red and White armies based in Vladivostok nearly wiped out the local Siberian tigers. In 1935 (82 years ago), when the Manchurian Chinese were driven back across the Amur and the Ussuri, the tigers had already withdrawn from their northern and western range. The few that remained in the East Manchurian mountains were cut off from the main population by the building of railroads. Within a few years, the last viable Siberian Tiger population was confined to Ussuriland. Legal tiger hunting within the Soviet Union would continue until 1947 (70 years ago) when it was officially prohibited. In 1962 (55 years ago), the last tiger in Heilongjiang received protection. In the mid 1980s, it was estimated that the Siberian Tiger population consisted of approximately 250 animals.
In 1987 (30 years ago), law and order almost entirely broke down due to impending collapse of the Soviet Union. Subsequent illegal deforestation and bribery of park rangers made the poaching of Siberian tigers easier, once again putting the subspecies at risk from extinction. However due to the work of The Siberian Tiger Project, founded in 1992 (25 years ago), the Siberian Tiger has seen a steady recovery and stabilization after the disastrous post-Soviet years that saw its numbers decline sharply. The basis of the success has largely been on the meticulous research carried out on these tigers which led to the longest ongoing study of a single tiger, Olga Project Tiger #1. Through this the project was able to focus their conservation efforts to decrease tiger mortality and to improve the quality of their habitat as well. The project included anti-poaching patrols, consultation with local governments regarding human-tiger conflicts, reducing the occurrences of clearcut logging, and other habitat depletion activities.
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