Why Are There No Tigers In Africa?
Posted by Adam Smith on Sep 12, 2017
Despite being home to elephants, lions, hippos, and more dominant animals, there have never been any wild tigers in Africa.
It’s surprising to many. As part of the Felidae family of cats, ancestors of tigers originated in Africa. The family includes cheetahs, lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars - some of which do live in the African plains.
However, it is believed that one branch of the family travelled to Asia roughly two million years go, eventually evolving into the striped predators that sit atop the food chain in areas of India, Nepal and elsewhere today.
Although this is the common belief among researchers, no one knows for definite why tigers chose long ago to migrate from their homeland and never return.
J.L. David Smith, a professor at the University of Minnesota's department of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, explained: “One can offer a series of speculations about why tigers did not get to Africa, but they are all speculations.”
Wildlife Conservation Society figures show that there are currently around 3,000 tigers left in the wild, and the animals are endangered in Asia as a result of poaching, loss of habitat, and a lack of prey.
Could tigers survive in the wild in Africa?
Since relatives such as leopards and lions live in Africa, many have wondered whether tigers could also live on the continent, but it’s unfortunately impossible to give a conclusive answer.
In September 2003, two captive-born South China tiger cubs were introduced to South Africa by Li Quan, an ex-fashion executive from Beijing, and her husband Stuart Bray, founders of the Save China’s Tigers Foundation.
The two purchased 30,000 hectares of land in South Africa for the breeding project, which aimed to rewild them in the continent before moving them back to China, but it was met with criticism after several of the cubs died.
Due to the vast differences between Asia and Africa’s ecosystems, we may never know whether or not tigers could survive on the continent.
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"Tigress" redirects here. For other uses, see Tiger (disambiguation) and Tigress (disambiguation).
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest catspecies, most recognizable for their pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside. The species is classified in the genus Panthera with the lion, leopard, jaguar, and snow leopard. Tigers are apex predators, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and bovids. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans.
Tigers once ranged widely across Eurasia, from the Black Sea in the west, to the Indian Ocean in the south, and from Kolyma to Sumatra in the east. Over the past 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range, and have been extirpated from Western and Central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast, Southern, and Eastern Asia. Today, they range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. The remaining six tiger subspecies have been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Major reasons for population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and poaching. The extent of area occupied by tigers is estimated at less than 1,184,911 km2 (457,497 sq mi), a 41% decline from the area estimated in the mid-1990s.
The global population in the wild is estimated to number between 3,062 and 3,948 individuals, down from around 100,000 at the start of the 20th century, with most remaining populations occurring in small pockets isolated from each other, in which about 2,000 tigers live on the Indian subcontinent. In 2016, an estimate of a global wild tiger population of approximately 3,890 individuals was presented during the Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation. The WWF declared that the world's count of wild tigers has risen for the first time in a century.
Tigers are among the most recognisable and popular of the world's megafauna. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern films and literature. They appear on many flags, coats of arms, and as mascots for sporting teams. The tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and South Korea.
The word Panthera is probably of Oriental origin and retraceable to the Ancient Greek word panther, the Latin word panthera, the Old French word pantère, most likely meaning "the yellowish animal", or from pandarah meaning whitish-yellow. The derivation from Greekpan- ("all") and ther ("beast") may be folk etymology.
The word specific nametigris derives from the Classical Greek languageτίγρις meaning "tiger" as well as the river Tigris.
The Middle Englishtigre and the Old Englishtigras (a plural word) were both used for the animal. These derive from the Old French tigre, itself a derivative of the Latin word tigris. The original source may have been the Persiantigra meaning pointed or sharp and the Avestantigrhi meaning an arrow, perhaps referring to the speed with which a tiger launches itself at its prey.
In 1758, Carl Linnaeus described the tiger in his work Systema Naturae and gave it the scientific nameFelis tigris. In 1929, the British taxonomist Reginald Innes Pocock subordinated the species under the genus Panthera using the scientific name Panthera tigris.
Following Linnaeus's first descriptions of the species, several tiger specimens were described and proposed as subspecies. The validity of several tiger subspecies was questioned in 1999. Most putative subspecies described in the 19th and 20th centuries were distinguished on basis of fur length and coloration, striping patterns and body size, hence characteristics that vary widely within populations. Morphologically, tigers from different regions vary little, and gene flow between populations in those regions is considered to have been possible during the Pleistocene. Therefore, it was proposed to recognize only two tiger subspecies as valid, namely P. t. tigris in mainland Asia, and P. t. sondaica in the Greater Sunda Islands and possibly in Sundaland.
Results of craniological analysis of 111 tiger skulls from Southeast Asian range countries indicate that Sumatran tiger skulls differ from Indochinese and Javan tiger skulls, whereas Bali tiger skulls are similar in size to Javan tiger skulls. The authors proposed to classify Sumatran and Javan tiger as distinct species, P. sumatrae and P. sondaica with Bali tiger as subspecies P. sondaica balica.
In 2015, morphological, ecological and molecular traits of all putative tiger subspecies were analysed in a combined approach. Results support distinction of the two evolutionary groups continental and Sunda tigers. The authors proposed recognition of only two subspecies, namely P. t. tigris comprising the Bengal, Malayan, Indochinese, South Chinese, Siberian and Caspian tiger populations, and P. t. sondaica comprising the Javan, Bali and Sumatran tiger populations. The authors also noted that this reclassification will affect tiger conservation management. One conservation specialist welcomed this proposal as it would make captive breeding programmes and future rewilding of zoo-born tigers easier. One geneticist was sceptical of this study and maintained that the currently recognised nine subspecies can be distinguished genetically.
In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group revised felid taxonomy and now recognizes the tiger populations in continental Asia as P. t. tigris, and those in the Sunda Islands as P. t. sondaica. At present, the ITIS and Catalogue of Life still recognise eight subspecies.
The following table is based on the classification of the species Panthera tigris provided in Mammal Species of the World. It also reflects the classification used by the Cat Classification Task Force:
|Bengal tiger (P. t. tigris) (Linnaeus, 1758)||The Bengal tiger's coat colour varies from light yellow to reddish yellow with black stripes. Males attain a total nose-to-tail length of 270 to 310 cm (110 to 120 in) and weigh between 180 to 258 kg (397 to 569 lb), while females range from 240 to 265 cm (94 to 104 in) and 100 to 160 kg (220 to 350 lb). In northern India and Nepal, the average is larger; males weigh up to 235 kilograms (518 lb), while females average 140 kilograms (310 lb). Recorded body weights of wild individuals indicate that it is the heaviest subspecies.|
This population occurs in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, foremost in alluvial grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests and mangrove habitats. It is extinct in Pakistan. In 2014, the population in India was estimated at 2,226 mature individuals, 163–253 in Nepal and 103 in Bhutan.
|Caspian tiger (P. t. tigris),formerly P. t. virgata (Illiger, 1815)||The Caspian tiger was described as having narrow and closely set stripes. The size of its skull did not differ significantly from that of the Bengal tiger. According to genetic analysis, it was closely related to the Siberian tiger.|
The population inhabited forests and riverine corridors south and east of the Black and Caspian Seas, from Eastern Anatolia into Central Asia, along the coast of the Aral Sea and the southern shore of Lake Balkhash to the Altai Mountains. It had been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s and is considered extinct since the late 20th century.
|Siberian tiger (P. t. tigris),formerly P. t. altaica (Temminck, 1844). Also known as the Amur tiger.||The Siberian tiger has a thick coat with pale hues and few dark brown stripes. Males have a head and body length of between 190 and 230 cm (75 and 91 in) and weigh between 180 and 306 kg (397 and 675 lb), while females average 160 to 180 cm (63 to 71 in) and 100 to 167 kg (220 to 368 lb). Tail length is about 60–110 cm (24–43 in).|
This population inhabits the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai in far eastern Siberia, with a small population in Hunchun National Siberian Tiger Nature Reserve in northeastern China near the border to North Korea. It is extinct in Mongolia, North Korea, and South Korea. In 2005, there were 331–393 adult and subadult Siberian tigers in the region, with a breeding adult population of about 250 individuals. As of 2015, there was an estimated population of 480-540 individuals in the Russian Far East.
|Indochinese tiger (P. t. tigris),formerly P. t. corbetti Mazák, 1968||The Indochinese tiger was described as being smaller than the Bengal tiger and as having a smaller skull. Males average 108 inches (270 cm) in total length and weigh between 150 and 195 kg (331 and 430 lb), while females average 96 inches (240 cm) and 100–130 kg (220–290 lb).|
This population occurs in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, but has not been recorded in Vietnam since 1997. In 2010, the population in Indochina was estimated at about 350 individuals. In Southeast Asia, tiger populations have declined in key areas and are threatened by illegal production of tiger bone for use in traditional medicine.
|Malayan tiger (P. t. tigris),formerly P. t. jacksoni Luo et al., 2004||There is no clear difference between the Malayan and the Indochinese tiger in pelage or skull size. It was proposed as a distinct subspecies on the basis of mtDNA and micro-satellite sequences that differs from the Indochinese tiger.|
Males range in total length from 190–280 cm (75–110 in) and weigh between 47.2 to 129.1 kg (104 to 285 lb), while females range from 180–260 cm (71–102 in) and 24 to 88 kg (53 to 194 lb).
The population was roughly estimated at 250 to 340 adult individuals in 2013, and likely comprised less than 200 mature breeding individuals at the time. The geographic division between Malayan and Indochinese tigers is unclear as tiger populations in northern Malaysia are contiguous with those in southern Thailand. In Singapore the last tiger was shot in 1932; tigers are considered extirpated since the 1950s.
|South China tiger (P. t. tigris),formerly P. t. amoyensis (Hilzheimer, 1905)||The South China tiger is considered to be the most ancient of the tiger subspecies and is distinguished by a particularly narrow skull, long-muzzled nose, rhombus-like stripes and vivid orange colour. Males range in total length from 230–260 cm (91–102 in) and weigh between 130 to 180 kg (290 to 400 lb), while females range from 220–240 cm (87–94 in) and 100 to 110 kg (220 to 240 lb).|
The population is extinct in the wild. Despite unconfirmed reports and some evidence of footprints, there has been no confirmed sighting in China since the early 1970s. As of 2007, the captive population consisted of 73 individuals, which derived from six wild founders.
|Javan tiger (P. t. sondaica) (Temminck, 1844)||The Javan tiger was small compared to tigers of the Asian mainland. Males weighed 100–141 kg (220–311 lb) and females 75–115 kg (165–254 lb).|
This population was limited to the Indonesian island of Java, and had been recorded until the mid-1970s. After 1979, no more sightings were confirmed in the region of Mount Betiri. An expedition to Mount Halimun Salak National Park in 1990 did not yield any definite, direct evidence for the continued existence of tigers.
|Bali tiger (P. t. sondaica),formerly P. t. balica (Schwarz, 1912)||The Bali tiger was the smallest tiger and limited to the Indonesian island of Bali. It had a weight of 90–100 kg (200–220 lb) in males and 65–80 kg (143–176 lb) in females. A typical feature of Bali tiger skulls is the narrow occipital plane, which is analogous with the shape of skulls of Javan tigers.|
In Bali, tigers were hunted to extinction; the last Bali tiger, an adult female, is thought to have been killed at Sumbar Kima, West Bali, on 27 September 1937, though there were unconfirmed reports that villagers found a tiger corpse in 1963.
|Sumatran tiger (P. t. sondaica),formerly P. t. sumatraePocock, 1929||It is the smallest of all living tigers. Males range in total length from 220 to 255 cm (87 to 100 in) and weigh between 100 to 140 kg (220 to 310 lb), while females range between 215 to 230 cm (85 to 91 in) and 75 to 110 kg (165 to 243 lb). The reasons for its small size compared to mainland tigers are unclear, but probably the result of competition for limited and small prey. The population is thought to be of Asia mainland origin and to have been isolated about 6,000 to 12,000 years ago after a rise in sea-level created the Indonesian island of Sumatra.|
The population is the last surviving of the three Indonesian island tiger populations. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. By 2008, the wild population was estimated at between 441 and 679 in 10 protected areas covering about 52,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi).
Evolution and genetics
The tiger's closest living relatives were previously thought to be the Panthera species lion, leopard and jaguar. Results of genetic analysis indicate that about 2.88 million years ago, the tiger and the snow leopard diverged from the other Panthera species, and that both may be more closely related to each other than to the lion, leopard and jaguar. Results of a phylogeographic study indicate that all living tigers had a common ancestor 72,000–108,000 years ago.
Fossil remains of the Longdan tiger were found in the Gansu province of northwestern China. This species lived at the beginning of the Pleistocene, about 2 million years ago, and is considered to be a sister taxon of the modern tiger. It was about the size of a jaguar and probably had a different coat pattern. Despite being considered more "primitive", the Longdan tiger was functionally and possibly ecologically similar to the modern tiger. As it lived in northwestern China, that may have been where the tiger lineage originated. Tigers grew in size, possibly in response to adaptive radiations of prey species like deer and bovids, which may have occurred in Southeast Asia during the early Pleistocene.
The earliest fossils of true tigers are between 1.6 and 1.8 million years old and were found in Java. Distinct fossils are known from the early and middle Pleistocene deposits in China and Sumatra. The Trinil tiger (Panthera tigris trinilensis) lived about 1.2 million years ago and is known from fossils found at Trinil in Java. The Wanhsien, Ngandong, Trinil and Japanese tigers became extinct in prehistoric times.
Tigers first reached India and northern Asia in the late Pleistocene, reaching eastern Beringia, Japan, and Sakhalin. Some fossil skulls are morphologically distinct from lion skulls, which could indicate tiger presence in Alaska during the last glacial period, about 100,000 years ago. Fossils found in Japan indicate the local tigers were smaller than the mainland forms, possibly due to insular dwarfism. Until the Holocene, tigers also lived in Borneo and on the Palawan island in the Philippines.
The tiger's full genome sequence was published in 2013. It was found to have similar repeat composition than other cat genomes and an appreciably conserved synteny.
Further information: Felid hybrid, Panthera hybrid, Liger, and Tigon
Lions have been known to breed with tigers (most often the Amur and Bengal tigers) to create hybrids called ligers and tigons. Such hybrids were once commonly bred in zoos, but this is now discouraged due to the emphasis on conservation. Hybrids are still bred in private menageries and in zoos in China.
The liger is a cross between a male lion and a tigress. Because the lion sire passes on a growth-promoting gene, but the corresponding growth-inhibiting gene from the female tiger is absent, ligers grow far larger than either parent species. They share physical and behavioural qualities of both parent species (spots and stripes on a sandy background). Male ligers are sterile, but female ligers are often fertile. Males have about a 50% chance of having a mane, but, even if they do, their manes will be only around half the size of that of a pure lion. Ligers are typically between 10 and 12 ft (3.0 and 3.7 m) in length, and can weigh between 800 and 1,000 lb (360 and 450 kg) or more.
The less common tigon is a cross between a lioness and a male tiger. Because the male tiger does not pass on a growth-promoting gene and the lioness passes on a growth inhibiting gene, tigons are often relatively small, only weighing up to 150 kg (330 lb). Like ligers, they have physical and behavioural traits from both parental species, and males are sterile. Females are sometimes fertile and have occasionally given birth to litigons when mated to a male Asiatic lion.
The tiger has a muscular body with powerful forelimbs, a large head and a tail that is about half the length of its body. Its pelage is dense and heavy, and colouration varies between shades of orange and brown with white ventral areas and distinctive vertical black stripes that are unique in each individual. Stripes are likely advantageous for camouflage in vegetation such as long grass with strong vertical patterns of light and shade. The tiger is one of only a few striped cat species; it is not known why spotted patterns and rosettes are the more common camouflage pattern among felids. A tiger's coat pattern is still visible when it is shaved. This is due not to skin pigmentation, but to the stubble and hair follicles embedded in the skin, similar to human beards (colloquially five o'clock shadow), and is in common with other big cats. They have a mane-like heavy growth of fur around the neck and jaws and long whiskers, especially in males. The pupils are circular with yellow irises. The small, rounded ears have a prominent white spot on the back, surrounded by black. These false "eyespots", called ocelli, apparently play an important role in intraspecies communication.
The skull is similar to that of the lion, though the frontal region is usually not as depressed or flattened, with a slightly longer postorbital region. The skull of a lion has broader nasal openings. However, due to variation in skulls of the two species, the structure of the lower jaw is a more reliable indicator of the species. The tiger also has fairly stout teeth; the somewhat curved canines are the longest among living felids with a crown height of up to 90 mm (3.5 in).
Tigers are the most variable in size of all big cats, much more so than lions. Barring hybrids like the liger, the Bengal and Siberian tigers, and Asiatic lion appear to be the tallest felids at the shoulder. The Bengal and Siberian tigers are also ranked with the extinct Caspian tiger among the biggest felids that ever existed. However, on average in the wild, an adult, male Siberian tiger (176.4 kilograms (389 lb)) is outweighed by both an adult, male Bengal tiger and Southern African lion (187.5–193.3 kilograms (413–426 lb)). Males vary in total length from 250 to 390 cm (98 to 154 in) and weigh between 90 to 306 kg (198 to 675 lb) with skull length ranging from 316 to 383 mm (12.4 to 15.1 in). Females vary in total length from 200 to 275 cm (79 to 108 in), weigh 65 to 167 kg (143 to 368 lb) with skull length ranging from 268 to 318 mm (10.6 to 12.5 in). The heaviest wild tiger ever reported had a total body length of 3.38 m (11.1 ft) over curves. In either sex, the tail represents about 0.6 to 1.1 m (24 to 43 in) of total length.
There is a notable sexual dimorphism between males and females, latter being consistently smaller than males. The size difference between males and females is proportionally greater in the larger tiger subspecies, with males weighing up to 1.7 times more than females. Males also have wider forepaw pads than females, enabling gender to be told from tracks.
Large male Siberian tigers can reach a total length of more than 3.5 m (11.5 ft) over curves and 3.3 m (10.8 ft) between pegs, with a weight of up to 306 kg (675 lb). This is considerably larger than the weight of 75 to 140 kg (165 to 309 lb) reached by the Sumatran tiger. At the shoulder, tigers may variously stand 0.7 to 1.22 m (2.3 to 4.0 ft) tall. The heaviest tiger on record was a Bengal tiger shot in 1967 allegedly weighing 388.7 kg (857 lb); unverified is whether this individual had a full or empty stomach. It has been hypothesised that body size of different tiger populations may be correlated with climate and be explained by thermoregulation and Bergmann's rule, or by distribution and size of available prey species.
A well-known allele found only in the Bengal subspecies produces the white tiger, a colour variant first recorded in the early 19th century and found in an estimated one in 10,000 natural births. Genetically, whiteness is recessive: a cub is white only when both parents carry the allele for whiteness. It is not albinism, pigment being evident in the white tiger's stripes and in their blue eyes. The causative mutation changes a single amino acid in the transporter protein SLC45A2.
White tigers are more frequently bred in captivity, where the comparatively small gene pool can lead to inbreeding. This has given white tigers a greater likelihood of being born with physical defects, such as cleft palate, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and strabismus (squint). Even apparently healthy white tigers generally do not live as long as their orange counterparts. Attempts have been made to cross white and orange tigers to remedy this, often mixing with other subspecies in the process.
Another recessive gene creates the "golden" or "golden tabby" colour variation, sometimes known as "strawberry". Golden tigers have thicker than usual light-gold fur, pale legs, and faint orange stripes. Few golden tigers are kept in captivity; they are invariably at least part Bengal. Some golden tigers carry the white tiger gene, and when two such tigers are mated, they can produce some stripeless white offspring. Although a "pseudo-melanistic" effect—wide stripes that partially obscure the orange background—has been seen in some pelts, no true black tigers have been authenticated, with the possible exception of one dead specimen examined in Chittagong in 1846. These wholly or partially melanistic tigers, if they exist, are assumed to be intermittent mutations rather than a distinct species. There are further unconfirmed reports of a "blue" or slate-coloured variant, the Maltese tiger. However, while some felids do exhibit this colouration as a solid coat, there is no known genetic configuration that would result in black stripes on a blue-gray background.
Distribution and habitat
At the end of the last glacial period about 20,000 years ago, the tiger was widespread from Eastern Anatolia Region and Mesopotamia, in Central Asia to eastern Siberia and South and Southeast Asia to the Indonesian islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra. Today, tigers are regionally extinct in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan and Singapore.
Fossil remains indicate tigers were also present in Beringia in the north, Japan to the east, and Borneo and Palawan in the Philippines in the south during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene.
During the 20th century, tigers became extinct in Western and Central Asia, and were restricted to isolated pockets in the remaining parts of their range. They were extirpated on the island of Bali in the 1940s, around the Caspian Sea in the 1970s, and on Java in the 1980s. This was the result of habitat loss and the ongoing killing of tigers and tiger prey. Today, their significantly fragmented and depopulated range extends eastward from India to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, North Korea and Russia. The northern limit of their range is close to the Amur River in southeastern Siberia. The only large island they still inhabit is Sumatra. Since the beginning of the 20th century, tigers' historical range has shrunk by 93%. In the decade from 1997 to 2007, the estimated area known to be occupied by tigers has declined by 41%.
The tiger occupies a wide range of habitat types, but will usually require sufficient cover, proximity to water, and an abundance of prey. It prefers dense vegetation, for which its camouflage colouring is ideally suited, and where a single predator is not at a disadvantage compared with the multiple cats in a pride. A further habitat requirement is the placement of suitably secluded den locations, which may consist of caves, large hollow trees, or dense vegetation. The Bengal tiger in particular lives in many types of forests, including wet, evergreen, and the semi-evergreen forests of Assam and eastern Bengal, swampy mangrove forests of the Ganges Delta, deciduous forest in the Terai, and thorn forests in the Western Ghats. In various parts of its range it inhabits or had inhabited additionally partially open grassland and savanna as well as taiga forests and rocky habitats.
Biology and behaviour
Social and daily activities
Adult tigers lead largely solitary lives. They establish and maintain territories but have much wider home ranges within which they roam. Resident adults of either sex generally confine their movements to their home ranges, within which they satisfy their needs and those of their growing cubs. Individuals sharing the same area are aware of each other's movements and activities. The size of the home range mainly depends on prey abundance, and, in the case of males, on access to females. A tigress may have a territory of 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi), while the territories of males are much larger, covering 60 to 100 km2 (23 to 39 sq mi). The range of a male tends to overlap those of several females, providing him with a large field of prospective mating partners.
The tiger is a long-ranging species, and individuals disperse over distances of up to 650 km (400 mi) to reach tiger populations in other areas.
It is strong swimmer and often bathes in ponds, lakes and rivers, thus keeping cool in the heat of the day. Among the big cats, only the jaguar shares a similar fondness for water. Individuals can cross rivers up to 7 km (4.3 mi) wide and can swim up to 29 km (18 mi) in a day. They are able to carry prey through or capture it in the water.
Young female tigers establish their first territories close to their mother's. The overlap between the female and her mother's territory reduces with time. Males, however, migrate further than their female counterparts and set out at a younger age to mark out their own area. A young male acquires territory either by seeking out an area devoid of other male tigers, or by living as a transient in another male's territory until he is older and strong enough to challenge the resident male. Young males seeking to establish themselves thereby comprise the highest mortality rate (30–35% per year) amongst adult tigers.
To identify his territory, the male marks trees by spraying urine and anal gland secretions, as well as marking trails with scat and marking trees or the ground with their claws. Females also use these "scrapes", as well as urine and scat markings. Scent markings of this type allow an individual to pick up information on another's identity, sex and reproductive status. Females in oestrus will signal their availability by scent marking more frequently and increasing their vocalisations.
Although for the most part avoiding each other, tigers are not always territorial and relationships between individuals can be complex. An adult of either sex will sometimes share its kill with others, even those who may not be related to them. George Schaller observed a male share a kill with two females and four cubs. Unlike male lions, male tigers allow females and cubs to feed on the kill before the male is finished with it; all involved generally seem to behave amicably, in contrast to the competitive behaviour shown by a lion pride. In his book Tiger, Stephen Mills describes a social eating event witnessed by Valmik Thapar and Fateh Singh Rathore in Ranthambhore National Park thus:
A dominant tigress they called Padmini killed a 250 kg (550 lb) male nilgai – a very large antelope. They found her at the kill just after dawn with her three 14-month-old cubs and they watched uninterrupted for the next ten hours. During this period the family was joined by two adult females and one adult male, all offspring from Padmini's previous litters, and by two unrelated tigers, one female the other unidentified. By three o'clock there were no fewer than nine tigers round the kill.
Occasionally, male tigers participate in raising cubs, usually their own, but this is extremely rare and not always well understood. In May 2015, Amur tigers were photographed by camera traps in the Sikhote-Alin Bioshpere Reserve. The photos show a male Amur tiger pass by, followed by a female and three cubs within the span of about two minutes.
White tigers, this recessive colour variant is found in the Bengal and Siberian tigers, and with regular stripes and blue eyes. It is not albinism.
A golden tiger, another colour variant, results in thicker light-gold fur, pale legs and faint orange stripes
Captive male South Chinese tiger marking his territory
A captive tiger swimming and playing with a piece of wood in a pool