The life cycle of an animal refers to the stages through which the average specimen goes during the entire period that extends from its birth to its eventual death. Studying and knowing about an animal’s normal life cycle gives researchers and enthusiasts important insights and foundations on which to plan and base their efforts, particularly in the sphere of conservation.
At birth, the tiger weighs between 780 and 1 600 grams (averaging just over one kilogram) after a gestation period of about 3.5 months. They will stay hidden and protected in the comfy den that their mother prepared before their birth for the first eight weeks of their lives They are nursed by their mother who will gradually begin to introduce solids when the cubs are between six and eight weeks old.
When the cub is two months old, it will be allowed to venture out of the security of the den. The next few months will be spent being trained to hunt and live independently of their mother’s care. This is done both by observation and by practice. By about 18 months of age, they are usually equipped to hunt for themselves. Still, both males and females will stay with their mothers until they are about 2.5 years old. At this time, they will leave their mother and establish their own territory. Females are likely to stay within fairly close proximity to their mother, despite not necessarily having a relationship with her in the future, while males are likely to go further away.
The rate of infant mortality is relatively high amongst tigers. Some babies die in bush fires, others in heavy rains, and yet others are killed by adult males that want to induce the mother’s fertility so that he can mate with her instead. Fewer than half of the cubs that are born live past two years of age. This is a particularly sad statistic considering the fact that there are already so few of these magnificent creatures alive today.
A female tiger reaches sexual maturity at between three and four years old, and will likely have her first litter then. Males are about a year older than their female counterparts when they reach sexual maturity; that is, between four and five years old. Females usually wait about 2.5 years between pregnancies. However, if she loses a litter, she can produce another one within five months.
Naturally, tigers live longer when they are in captivity, since they are not under threat from poachers, starvation or fires. They receive protection and medical assistance as and when necessary. Therefore, tigers in captivity have been known to live for about 26 years. Those in the wild must fight a hard fight to survive. For this reason, their life is shorter, at an average of 10 years.