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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024








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Family : Felidae
Species : Panthera tigris

Head-body length : up to 2.3 metres
Tail length : up to 1.15 metres
Weight : up to 245 kg

One of the world's most iconic mammals, the beautiful, but highly endangered, Tiger is still to be found in parts of Southeast Asia.

Tigers are able to adapt to a variety of habitats including temperate and tropical forests, degraded forest and scrub. Notwithstanding extreme poaching pressure from man, often it is the availability of large prey which limits their population. An adult tiger will need to kill a large prey animal, such as a Sambar, Gaur or Banteng, around once a week to survive and to feed its cubs. Medium sized prey, such as Muntjac and Wild Pig are also taken. 

Tigers are mainly solitary in habits, with young cubs being raised only by the mother. Males have large territories of many tens of square kilometres which may overlap up to 3 female territories, which are typically smaller. For both sexes, territories are smaller where there is sufficient prey.

Globally, tigers now survive in less than 10% of their historic range. Much of the lowlands in which they once lived is now heavily fragmented by human development. Fortunately tigers are known to survive in forested, montane areas, but poaching gangs still attempt to penetrate such places. Tiger poaching is an organised, criminal activity undertaken in full knowledge of prevailing laws. Such ruthless gangs are known to cross international borders to undertake their illegal activities in other countries of Southeast Asia, in particular Malaysia.

The long term survival of these most impressive cats needs a great deal of poaching suppression and the end of the illegal trade in its body parts for traditional medicine (most medicinal use of tiger parts is based on little more than ill-informed, scientific ignorance). In addition, landscape level protection is needed, as well as the protection of a prey base of large ungulates.

Of nine recognised subspecies of tiger, three have become extinct due to mankind's activities i.e. the Caspian Tiger, the Bali Tiger and the Javan Tiger.

Having lost the Bali and Javan tigers, only three subspecies still remain within Southeast Asia - the Northern Indochinese Tiger (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia), which probably number less than 400, the Malayan Tiger (Peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand) of which only around 150 still survive (as of 2022), and the Sumatran Tiger (Sumatra, Indonesia) with about 500 left. All populations have suffered rapid decline in recent years and their current presence in some territories, such as Vietnam and Cambodia, may be in doubt.

The other three surviving subspecies are the Bengal Tiger, Amur Tiger and South China Tiger.

Fig 1 and 2 : A solitary, adult male Malayan Tiger takes a shortcut along a forest road, and turns to face a concealed trail camera. Such trail cameras, or camera traps, have proved an effective tool in monitoring the presence of tigers and in making population estimates.

Fig 3 : Another specimen in degraded forest in Peninsular Malaysia.

All images courtesy
Kae Kawanishi / MYCAT

Links :
MYCAT - Citizen Action For Tigers

References :