Can You See Me Now?
Although tigers are easy to see in most zoo settings, their distinctive stripes and coloration provide the camouflage needed for a large predator in the wild. The pattern of stripes on a tigers face is as distinctive as human fingerprints – no two tigers have exactly the same stripe pattern.
Tigers have canine teeth four inches long – longer canines than any other predator. Using their big canine teeth and their powerful jaws, tigers can kill prey with one quick bite. Their carnassial teeth (teeth used to shear meat) are adapted for gripping and tearing flesh.
Tigers have highly developed binocular vision, which helps them gauge the distance to prey animals they are chasing. The tapetum lucidum, a mirrorlike layer in the back of the eye, reflects light back through the eye to help produce a brighter image in low light. They see as well as humans in the daytime but at night their sight is five times more acute which allows them to hunt effectively in low light.
My, What Big Claws You Have!
Like most cats, tigers have retractable claws. They usually keep their claws tucked in the fur on their paws. This keeps the claws from wearing down too quickly and also allows them to move silently across hard surfaces when sneaking up on prey. The claws are extended when grabbing prey or scratching an itch.
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered.
The remaining five subspecies of tiger are all endangered. It is estimated that only 350-450 Amur (Siberian) tigers remain in the wild although there are 650 in captivity. Tigers are poached for their bones and organs, which are prized for their use in traditional medicines. A single tiger can be worth over $15,000 – more than most poor people in the region can make in many years. In addition, forestry, mining and road construction are shrinking tiger habitat and range. Overhunting and habitat loss have also reduced the populations of prey animals the tigers depend on. Recent conservation efforts have increased the number of wild Siberian tigers but continued efforts will be needed to ensure their survival.