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Information about TigerThe Tiger (Panthera tigris) is a member of the Felidae family; the largest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera. Native to much of eastern and southern Asia, the Tiger is an apex predator and an obligate carnivore. Reaching up to 4 metres (13 ft) in total length and weighing up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds), the larger Tiger subspecies are comparable in size to the biggest extinct felids. Aside from their great bulk and power, their most recognizable feature is the pattern of dark vertical stripes that overlays near-white to reddish-orange fur, with lighter underparts. The most numerous Tiger subspecies is the Bengal Tiger while the largest subspecies is the Siberian tiger.
Highly adaptable, tigers range from the Siberian taiga, to open grasslands, to tropical mangrove swamps. They are territorial and generally solitary animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey demands. This, coupled with the fact that they are endemic to some of the more densely populated places on earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans. Of the nine subspecies of modern Tiger, three are extinct and the remaining six are classified as endangered, some critically so. The primary direct causes are habitat destruction and fragmentation, and hunting. Their historical range, which once reached from Mesopotamia and the Caucasus through most of South and East Asia, has been radically reduced. While all surviving species are under formal protection, poaching, habitat destruction and inbreeding depression continue to be threats.
Nonetheless, tigers are among the most recognizable and popular of the world's charismatic megafauna. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern movies and literature. Tigers appear on many flags and coats of arms, as mascots for sporting teams, and as the national animal of several Asian nations.
SubspeciesThere are eight recent subspecies of Tiger, two of which are extinct. Their historical range (severely diminished today) ran through Bangladesh, Siberia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, China, and southeast Asia, including some Indonesian islands. The surviving subspecies, in descending order of wild population, are:
The Bengal Tiger or the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris (6 walls)) is the most common subspecies of Tiger and is found primarily in India and Bangladesh. It lives in varied habitats: grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests, and mangroves. Males in the wild usually weigh 205 to 227 kg (450500 lb), while the average female will weigh about 141 kg. However, the northern Indian and the Nepalese Bengal tigers are somewhat bulkier than those found in the south of the Indian Subcontinent, with males averaging around 235 kilograms (520 lb). While conservationists already believed the population to be below 2,000, the most recent audit by the Indian Government's National Tiger Conservation Authority has estimated the number at just 1,411 wild tigers (11651657 allowing for statistical error), a drop of 60% in the past decade. Since 1972 (45 years ago), there has been a massive wildlife conservation project, known as Project Tiger, to protect the Bengal tiger. Despite increased efforts by Indian officials, poaching remains rampant and at least one Tiger Reserve (Sariska Tiger Reserve) has lost its entire Tiger population to poaching.
The Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), also called Corbett's Tiger, is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. These tigers are smaller and darker than Bengal tigers: Males weigh from 150190 kg (330420 lb) while females are smaller at 110140 kg (242308 lb). Their preferred habitat is forests in mountainous or hilly regions. Estimates of the Indochinese Tiger population vary between 1,200 to 1,800, with only several hundred left in the wild. All existing populations are at extreme risk from poaching, prey depletion as a result of poaching of primary prey species such as deer and wild pigs, habitat fragmentation and inbreeding. In Vietnam, almost three-quarters of the tigers killed provide stock for Chinese pharmacies.
The Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), exclusively found in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, was not considered a subspecies in its own right until 2004 (13 years ago). The new classification came about after a study by Luo et al. from the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity Study, part of the National Cancer Institute of the United States. Recent counts showed there are 600800 tigers in the wild, making it the third largest Tiger population, behind the Bengal Tiger and the Indochinese tiger. The Malayan Tiger is the smallest of the mainland Tiger subspecies, and the second smallest living subspecies, with males averaging about 120 kg and females about 100 kg in weight. The Malayan Tiger is a national icon in Malaysia, appearing on its coat of arms and in logos of Malaysian institutions, such as Maybank.
The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and is critically endangered. It is the smallest of all living Tiger subspecies, with adult males weighing between 100140 kg (220308 lb) and females 75110 kg (154242 lb). Their small size is an adaptation to the thick, dense forests of the island of Sumatra where they reside, as well as the smaller-sized prey. The wild population is estimated at between 400 and 500, seen chiefly in the island's national parks. Recent genetic testing has revealed the presence of unique genetic markers, indicating that it may develop into a separate species,[specify] if it does not go extinct. This has led to suggestions that Sumatran tigers should have greater priority for conservation than any other subspecies. While habitat destruction is the main threat to existing Tiger population (logging continues even in the supposedly protected national parks), 66 tigers were recorded as being shot and killed between 1998 (19 years ago) and 2000 (17 years ago), or nearly 20% of the total population.
The Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica (6 walls)), also known as the Amur, Manchurian, Altaic, Korean or North China Tiger, is confined to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai in far eastern Siberia, where it is now protected. Considered the largest subspecies, with a head and body length of 190230 cm (the tail of a Tiger is 60110 cm long) and an average weight of around 227 kilograms (500 lb) for males, the Amur Tiger is also noted for its thick coat, distinguished by a paler golden hue and fewer stripes. The heaviest wild Siberian Tiger on record weighed in at 384 kg, but according to Mazak these giants are not confirmed via reliable references. Even so, a six-month old Siberian Tiger can be as big as a fully grown leopard. The last two censuses (1996 and 2005 (12 years ago)) found 450500 Amur tigers within their single, and more or less continuous, range making it one of the largest undivided Tiger populations in the world. Genetic research in 2009 (8 years ago) demonstrated that the Siberian Tiger, and the western "Caspian tiger" (once thought to have been a separate subspecies that became extinct in the wild in the late 1950s) are actually the same subspecies, since the separation of the two populations may have occurred as recently as the past century due to human intervention.
The South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), also known as the Amoy or Xiamen Tiger, is the most critically endangered subspecies of Tiger and is listed as one of the 10 most endangered animals in the world.[clarification needed] One of the smaller Tiger subspecies, the length of the South China Tiger ranges from 2.22.6 m (87100 in) for both males and females. Males weigh between 127 and 177 kg (280390 lb) while females weigh between 100 and 118 kg (220260 lb). From 1983 (34 years ago) to 2007 (10 years ago), no South China tigers were sighted. In 2007 (10 years ago) a farmer spotted a Tiger and handed in photographs to the authorities as proof. The photographs in question, however, were later exposed as fake, copied from a Chinese calendar and photoshopped, and the sighting turned into a massive scandal.
In 1977 (40 years ago), the Chinese government passed a law banning the killing of wild tigers, but this may have been too late to save the subspecies, since it is possibly already extinct in the wild. There are currently 59 known captive South China tigers, all within China, but these are known to be descended from only six animals. Thus, the genetic diversity required to maintain the subspecies may no longer exist. Currently, there are breeding efforts to reintroduce these tigers to the wild.
The Balinese Tiger (Panthera tigris balica) was limited to the island of Bali. They were the smallest of all Tiger subspecies, with a weight of 90100 kg in males and 6580 kg in females. These tigers were hunted to extinctionthe last Balinese Tiger is thought to have been killed at Sumbar Kima, West Bali on 27 sep. 1937; this was an adult female. No Balinese Tiger was ever held in captivity. The Tiger still plays an important role in Balinese Hinduism.
The Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) was limited to the Indonesian island of Java. It now seems likely that this subspecies became extinct in the 1980s, as a result of hunting and habitat destruction, but the extinction of this subspecies was extremely probable from the 1950 (67 years ago) onwards (when it is thought that fewer than 25 tigers remained in the wild). The last confirmed specimen was sighted in 1979 (38 years ago), but there were a few reported sightings during the 1990 (27 years ago). With a weight of 100-141 kg for males and 75-115 kg for females, the Javan Tiger was one of the smaller subspecies, approximately the same size as the Sumatran tiger
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