Few animals evoke such strong feelings of fear and amazement as the tiger. For centuries, its behavior has inspired legends.
Tigers are the largest cats. Siberian tigers are the largest subspecies and most massively built: its adult male weighs an average of 384 kg.
Just like other big cats, tiger posses the physical adaptations to catch and kill preys of any size. Its hind legs are longer than the front legs which is an adaptation for jumping great heights. Both the front legs and shoulders are very muscular, much more than the hind legs and also front legs are equipped with long sharp retractable claws which enable them to hold their pray once contact is made.
Unlike the cheetah and lion, tigers are not found in open habitats. Its niche is essentially a moderately dense forest.
The basic social unit in tiger is the mother and the young. Tigers, however, were successfully kept in pairs or groups in zoos and seen in zoos, indicating a high degree of social tolerance.
Tigers use a variety of methods to keep exclusive rights to their area; urine mixed with secretions from the anal glands sprayed on trees, shrubs and rocks along trails and fencing. Scratching trees can also be used for signaling. These chemical and visual signals convey a lot of information to neighboring animals.
Tigers that live in prime habitats raise more offspring when compared to the few living in the opening. Large numbers of young adults live in the periphery though no clear picture of the social organization in these areas.
This outlying segment of the population is important because it promotes genetic mixing and ensures the availability of enough individuals. Unfortunately, these tigers often come into conflict with humans, as they will occupy habitat most heavily exploited by man and his livestock.
Tigers reach their sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years. Breeding activity has been recorded to be monthly for the Tigers in the tropics while in the north; they breed only in the winter seasons. A tigress is only receptive for a few just days and mating may take place as many times as possible over the next 2 days. The tigress might give birth to three to four cubs, weighing about 1 kg each. They are born blind and helpless. The tigress bears the responsibility of rearing them alone, always returning to the den to feed them. The cubs remain totally dependent on their mother for food until they are old enough to cater for themselves independently.
All surviving subspecies are threatened with extinction because reserves are relatively small, less than 1,000 sq.km (290 sq.mil) and isolated and this might cause little or no interbreeding between populations.
Tigers hunt alone, actively seeking their prey more frequently than laying ambush. An average tiger usually travel 10 to 20 kilometers (12.6 miles) a night for hunting. It is not so easy for tigers to catch their pray, probably only 1 out of 20 attempts is successful.