The Siberian Tiger
By Amelia Meyer
The Siberian Tiger is the largest of all of the wild cats in the world. Also known as the Amur Tiger or by its scientific name, Panthera tigris altaica, this magnificent animal is naturally found predominantly in the Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range in the far east of Russia. Of course, there are also Siberian Tigers in zoos, parks and conservation areas around the world. Today, there are only about 400 Siberians to be found in the wild.
Being the largest of all the tigers, this is an impressive hunter. The male measures an average of 295 centimetres (116 inches, or just less than three metres) in length, from head to tail. Females are slightly smaller, at an average length of 275 centimetres (the equivalent of 108 metres or 2.75 metres). Males weigh about 176 kilograms (or roughly 390 pounds) and females are significantly lighter, at approximately 118 kilograms or 260 pounds.
The Siberian Tiger has particularly narrow black stripes on its rusty-coloured coat. In proportion to the rest of its strong, majestic body, the legs of the Siberian appear short. However, they are very strong and well-developed.
Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) close up.
The Siberian Tiger favours forested areas and secluded mountain ranges. In its natural habitat in the Russian Far East, the Siberian Tiger enjoys a variety of different forests, from Korean pine broadleaf forests to East Asian coniferous areas and a vast variety in-between. This habitat is important as it is home to the ideal types of prey required by the Siberian Tiger to survive. In addition to the Russian Far East, a small number of this subspecies can also be found in China and North Korea. Snow-laden areas are not suitable for the Siberian Tiger as their natural prey cannot survive under these conditions, meaning that there is no food for the wild cats either.
Hunting and Diet
All tigers are carnivorous hunters. Typically, the Siberian Tiger will eat buck, wild pigs, and birds. It crouches in the grasses and trees of its habitat, hidden in waiting as its hapless prey approaches completely unawares. Because the tiger does not necessarily make a kill every day, it has to eat as much as possible of its catch when it happens. Therefore, a hungry animal can eat almost 30 kilograms of meat in one ‘sitting. So popular is the Asian Black Bear amongst tigers that some hunters have been reported to mimic the sound of the bear in order to attract it.
After a gestation period of between three and 3.5 months, the mother gives birth to an average of three beautiful cubs. She will raise and train these for about two to three years, when they will finally leave her side to live a life of solitude and isolation.
The mother has the responsibility of teaching her cubs the art of hunting. By about 18 months of age, the cubs should be able to hunt for themselves. They reach sexual maturity at four years old.
It is estimated that there are only between 400 and 500 Siberian Tigers left in existence, making them an endangered species. These animals need extensive landscapes of forests and the prey that these are home to in order to survive. This is a major contributing factor to their decline in numbers as urbanisation and logging have lead to a mass destruction of these very landscapes. Another threat to the survival of the Siberian Tiger is its traditional use in Chinese medicine, which holds that certain parts of its body are therapeutic, or capable of bringing the consumer good luck. Although tiger hunting for these purposes is not legal, there remains a very viable black market for these goods.