Tigers are the largest members of the cat family (Felidae) and one of the most charismatic endangered species on the planet.Over the last century, tiger numbers have fallen by about 95 percent and tigers now survive in 40 percent less of the area they occupied just a decade ago,
There are 9 subspecies of tigers that have been classified, and 3 of them are extinct at this point in time.
Amur or Siberian Tiger
Panthera tigris altaica is the scientific name of this tiger subspecies, and it is also known as the Amur, Siberian, Manchurian, Ussurian or Northeast China tiger.
It is the largest subspecies of all tigers. Males range from 660 to 700 pounds and grow up to 10.5 feet in length from head to tail. Females measure 8.5 feet in length and 200 to 370 pounds in weight.
Amur or Siberian tigers have pale orange fur as against the typical golden yellow fur, and they also have brown stripes instead of black. With white bellies and chests, they have a white ruff of fur around their necks. Wild Amur tigers are found in two parts of the Russian Far East:
- Primorsky and Khabarovsk Krais
- Russia-China border
This tiger is listed as endangered by the IUCN on its Red List of Threatened Species. Amur tigers are being reared in zoos across the world and conservation programs are in place to combat the decline in numbers, but it is difficult to breed this subspecies under captivity.
Indian (or Bengal) tiger
The most numerous of the tiger species, the Bengal tiger is found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. India is home to the largest population, estimated to between 2,500 and 3,750 individuals, according to the Save the Tigers Fund.While most Bengal tigers have the coloration typically associated with their species, a recessive gene for coloration causes some to be cream or white in color instead of orange, according to the WWF. These “white” tigers are rarely found in the wild.Wild tigers dwell in dry and wet deciduous forests, grassland and temperate forests and mangrove forests. While this subspecies has more individuals left in the wild than its brethren, it is still listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
South China Tiger
Panthera tigris amoyensis is the scientific name of this tiger subspecies. The South China tiger is actually found in central and eastern China. This rare tiger is one of the critically endangered species in the Red List of the IUCN. As per the WWF, the South China tiger is functionally extinct, since around 47 of these tigers live in 18 zoos.Around 40 years ago, more than 4,000 South China tigers existed. While there are field surveys which have found the possible existence of some of these tigers in the remote mountains in Guangdong, Hunan, and Fujian, this subspecies is believed to be headed towards extinction.
The Malayan tiger was only identified as being a separate subspecies from the Indochinese tiger in 2004. It is very similar to the Indochinese tiger, but is smaller in size.
Malayan tigers are found in the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests of the southern tip of Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.
The Indo-Chinese tiger, whose scientific name is Panthera tigris corbetti, is named after British hunter and naturalist Jim Corbett. This tiger subspecies is found in Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, the Indo-Chinese tiger is smaller and darker than the Bengal tiger but larger than the Malayan subspecies. It has narrow and short strips. Males range around 9 feet from head to tail and weigh about 400 pounds. Females are smaller, measuring 8 feet in length and weigh around 250 pounds, as per the Save the Tigers Fund. Their main diet is comprised wild pigs, deer and cattle.Indo-Chinese tigers are native to remote forests in hilly and mountain-like terrain, making it tough for scientists to access their habitat and study them. Relatively little is known about the status of tigers in the wild. In 1998 it was estimated that there were 1225 Indo-Chinese tigers at the most.
Panthera tigris sumatrae is the scientific name of the Sumatran tiger. Found at the Indonesian island of Sumatra, this type of tiger is listed as critically endangered, and nowadays they are protected by law.Despite conservation and anti-poaching regulations, Sumatran tigers are hunted and tiger parts and skins remain in heavy demand. The Sumatran tiger has the darkest coat of all tiger subspecies, and the broad, black stripes are spaced and doubled. The striped forelegs differentiate it from the Siberian tiger.The Sumatran tiger is the smallest tiger subspecies. Males range from 8 feet long and weigh 260 pounds, while females have weight pegged at 200 pounds and closer to 7 feet in length. There are around 500 or less Sumatran tiger left in the wild.
Called Panthera tigris balica, the Bali tiger is currently extinct. According to the Save the Tigers Fund, the Bali tiger went extinct in the 1940s, although the IUCN says that the last tiger of this subspecies was found in western Bali in the 1930s.
Causes of extinction include hunting, loss of forest habitat and lack of prey base. With a bar-shaped patterning on their heads, the Bali tigers had darker, shorter fur as against other subspecies. They had a lifespan of 8 to 10 years in the wild.
Scientifically called Panthera tigris sondaica, this type of tiger died out in the 1970s. This tiger subspecies was found in the Java Island. Although officially protected in 1947, the Javan Tiger was not saved from succumbing to extinction.
These tigers were very small; males reached around 250 pounds, with females being even smaller. They had long and narrow noses and stripes. Tigers were last recorded in Java Meru Betiri National Park in 1976.
Called Panthera tigris virgata, the Caspian tiger, also known as the Turan or Hyrcanian tiger, became extinct during the 1970s. Found in Turkey and Iran near the Caspian sea and the Central Asian to Chinese regions according to the IUCN, this tiger subspecies was hunted to extinction. Prey and habitat loss as well as a small population to start with also contributed to the extinction of this species.
Males were two meters long, making Caspian tigers the longest subspecies of tigers akin to Bengal tigers. The Caspian tiger had a bright golden coat and brown gold stripes that became duller and less distinct in winter. Stripes were narrower and closer together than other tiger subspecies.