The Indochinese Tiger


Image of An Indochinese tiger rests on a rock at the Cincinnati Zoo
An Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)
rests on a rock at the Cincinnati Zoo

The Indochinese subspecies of tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is found in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. They once inhabited China too, but none of these stunning creatures have been seen there since 2007. A man has been imprisoned for killing and eating the last known specimen to walk the wild in China. It is also known as the Corbett’s Tiger, the Malayan Tiger, or by its scientific name, Panthera tigris corbetti. Since there are only a few hundred of these animals left, the remaining specimens are sometimes prone to inbreeding (breeding with immediate family members). This leads to weakened genes and, in some cases, defects (such as cleft palates or squints). They are naturally elusive animals, making them particularly difficult to study and observe in the wild.

Physical Characteristics

The Indochinese Tiger is characterised by its smaller stature, when compared to other tiger subspecies. It has a dark orange or golden base coat colour, but its stripes are not as bold as the Bengal Tiger. Males are about 2.2 to 2.4 metres long (or 9 feet) and weigh between 150 and 200 kilograms (or 330 to 430 pounds). Females are between 2 and 2.2 metres long (about 8 feet) and weigh between 100 and 130 kilograms (which is equivalent to 220 to 287 pounds).

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The Indochinese Tiger prefers a life of seclusion. They choose forested areas in which they are concealed and camouflaged. They also prefer mountainous regions to flat ones, as these cater more to their hunting style, diet and way of life.

The Indochinese Tiger will eat the prey that is available to it within its natural habitat. This should comprise medium and large deer, birds, and so on. However, hunting has ensured that the numbers of these prey species are sufficiently depleted to threaten those of the hunter. The tiger is a carnivore, regardless of the subspecies. Therefore, vegetation is out of the question. In addition, very small prey does not fill the dietary needs of these powerful animals.

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Family Structure and Reproduction

After a gestation period of about 3.5 months (usually 103 days), the mother will give birth to up to seven cubs. However, the average number of cubs born at one time is around three. Cubs are born with their ears and eyes closed, but these take only a few days to open and begin functioning. At between 18 months and just over two years of age, the cubs will break away from their mother’s care and begin to hunt and live alone. Sexual maturity is reached at around 3.5 years of age in females and about five years in males. The Indochinese Tiger can reach between 15 and 26 years of age, depending on whether it is wild or in captivity as well as on the various conditions in which it lives.

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With only a few hundred Indochinese Tigers thought to be left in existence, the situation is critical. The poaching of tigers as well as of their prey is the most significant contributing factor to the depletion of numbers of this species. Chinese medicine is another major factor that has contributed to the mass killing of the Indochinese Tiger. Today, they can only be found in parks and reserves. There are a few programmes and initiatives underway to promote and rehabilitate the tiger numbers. However, this subspecies remains in critical danger of extinction.

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