6 subspecies endangered: Bengal Tiger (P. t. tigris), Corbett's Tiger (P. t. corbetti), Malayian Tiger (P. t. jacksoni), Sumatran Tiger (P. t. sumatran), Siberian Tiger (P. t. altaica), S. China Tiger (P. t. amoyensis)
The tiger is the most powerful living cat species on the earth and the largest and heaviest living of the cats in the world. Physical traits of the tiger vary according to subspecies, but generally male tigers can weigh between 400 and 700 lb and females between 260 and 400 lb. The males can reach 8 or 9 feet in length and the females between 7 and 9 feet. Tigers generally have brown or black stripes with orange fur, with the exception of the white tiger (which is not a subspecies of tiger, but a Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) with low skin pigmentation). Like finger-prints are unique to humans, tiger stripes are unique to tigers and can be used to identify individuals.
Tigers feed mostly on deer, wild boar, wild cattle and even young rhinos and elephants. They are excellent hunters and prefer to ambush their prey. They use their body size and strength to overpower and knock over their prey causing loss of balance. The tiger then bites the neck and does not let go until the prey dies. Tigers are also great swimmers and are known to kill prey in the water while swimming. Tigers can leap as high as 5 meters and as far as 10 meters, making them one of the highest-jumping mammals in the world. They prefer to live solitary lives and are very aggressive when it comes to territory. The male marks its territory by spraying trees with its urine. Females give birth to about 3 or 4 cubs which remain dependent on their mother for 18 months. However, they may stay with their mother for another 2.5 years.
There are nine subspecies of the tiger and three of them are extinct. The surviving subspecies are the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, the Indochinese tiger or Corbett's tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, the Malayian Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), found in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, the Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatran), found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, the Siberian Tiger (also known as the Amur, Manchurian tiger, or North China tiger) (Panthera tigris altaica), found only in Siberia, and the South China tiger (also known as the Amoy or Xiamen tiger) (Panthera tigris amoyensis), which may be extinct and is only found in South China.
The main cause of decline is poaching and loss of habitat due to human population expansion and activities such as logging. Tigers are often killed illegally for their fur or their bones which are used in Chinese medicine. Also tiger populations were nearly wiped out up until the 1930s due to hunting for sport. The tiger is now legally protected and there are many conservation organizations dedicated to the preservation of this species.