Tigers are one of the most easily recognizable animals with a distinctive stripy pattern and orange coloration of their fur. Tigers are the largest of the four ‘big cats’ and can reach lengths of up to 3.3 m (11 ft) and can weigh up to 306 kg (670 lb). They have a relatively long life span with a life expectancy of 20-25 years. Tigers once inhabited much of Asia, but their habitat has significantly shrunk in the last century. Due to the loss of up to 95% of their natural habitat the number of tigers in the wild has dropped. Tigers are solitary animals and need large tracks of territory with significant numbers of prey.
What Do Tigers Eat?
(a video of a tiger hunting prey)
Tigers are predatory hunters who stalk and ambush their prey. It is thought that only 1 in 20 hunts result in a kill for a tiger. Tigers mostly eat medium to large size animals, but are also opportunistic hunters who will eat smaller animals when they are able. Most tigers prey on deer and antelope species as this prey is plentiful and big enough to feed a full grown tiger.
The Bengal tigers that live in India prefer prey such as the Guar (also called Indian Bison), Barasingha (swamp deer), Sambar deer, water buffalo and domesticated buffalo, Chital deer, wild boar and Nilgai (Asian Antelope). Sambar Deer, muntjac (barking deer), wild boar, and Malayan tapir are eaten by the Tigers that inhabit Sumatra. In Siberia Tigers mostly prey upon manchurian wapiti (a type of elk) and wild boar. They will also hunt sika deer, moose, roe deer, and musk deer.
Tigers are also known to hunt and eat larger animals such as leopards, pythons, sloth bears and crocodiles. Young elephants and rhino calves may also be taken as prey, although this only occurs rarely. Horse, donkeys and cattle are also preyed upon by tigers especially in heavily populated areas. Some of the smaller animals that tigers may prey upon include dogs, monkeys, peafowl, other ground-based birds, hares, porcupines, and fish.
What do Tigers Eat in Captivity?
Large numbers of Tigers are kept in captivity all over the world with an estimated 5,000 kept in the USA alone. Tigers require a diet that is high in fats and protein. Up to 6 kilograms of slab meat is required to feed a tiger a day. Tigers are also feed parts of carcasses with bone and ligament attached to make sure that they receive the vitamins and minerals they require. Some zoos and conservation facilities also give captive tigers vitamin and mineral liquids.
Other Interesting Facts About Tigers
- Female tigers are pregnant for 16 weeks. There are usually 3-4 tiger cubs in a litter.
- In the 19th and early 20th century, tiger hunting was considered a ‘sport’.
- It is estimated that about 12,000 tigers are kept in the United States as pets. In many states, you can legally own a tiger as a pet (although you might need a permit). Only some states have outlawed it!
- The tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Malaysia, North Korea and South Korea.
- Tigers typically live close to the water.
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