THE PLAYFUL PREDATOR
Panthera tigris altaica
Siberian or Amur Tiger
Panthera tigris tigris
Panthera tigris amoyensis
Panthera tigris corbetti
Panthera tigris sumatrae
Panthera tigris balica
Bali (extinct 1937)
Panthera tigris sondaica
Java (extinct 1972)
Panthera tigris virgata
Caspia (extinct 1950's)
What is the difference between these two cute cubs besides their color?!
Life or Death
The Story of Sasha & Sergei
This is a classic tale of two hybrid Siberian tiger cubs born in captivity. They were both bred to be white tigers, because that is what is popular these days and worth a lot of money. Unfortunately, nature ultimately still decides what color it will assign to a new-born tiger no matter what the human intentions are. In nature a white tiger has no chances of survival because the natural yellow and brown stripes serve as camouflage while stalking their prey on the hunting trail. White tigers would stick out like a sore thumb and the hunted would be quickly alerted and easily escape these ill-fated predators.
It is a common misconception that white tigers are found affluently in the wild. White tigers in zoos are there because they were purposely bred that way and because people are mesmerized by the combination of the beautiful color of the tiger's coat and the contrasting blue eyes.
In the wild, white tigers are most common in the Bengal tiger breed, the last one believed to have been sited in India in 1951!!!!!! They are rare but to call them endangered is a big mistake, since it is not natural nor beneficial for them to occur in the wild!!! Only about 12 Bengal white tigers have been spotted in the wild in the last 100 years in India. In contrast, in zoos, most white tigers are usually a Bengal/Siberian hybrid which, of course, is also not natural.
White tigers are NOT albinos. The white color of their coat is caused by a recessive gene. Tigers have genes, genes exist of two parts, called alleles. The cubs each get one allele from the father and one from the mother. In order for the cub to come out white, it needs both alleles to be recessive. It does not happen very often really. For example, if the cub gets two orange coded alleles it will be orange, if it gets only one orange coded allele and one white coded (recessive) allele, the cub still comes out orange. So you can imagine that most cubs turn out orange. The fact that one parent is white or carries a recessive allele for the white color makes not difference: Chances are the cubs come out orange anyway.
For breeders to be more successful and to increase the chances for a white tiger cub, a lot of inbreeding takes place. This means that parent is bred to offspring, sibling to sibling, etc. This continued inbreeding, as with all animals that are inbred, causes deformities like hip and back problems, crossed eyes and gross physical deformities that can cause needless suffering to these beautiful animals.
In reality, not only does the breeding of white tigers compound the problem by giving the general public a completely incorrect image of these powerful wild predators, in addition it has caused a giant surplus of regular golden colored tigers in the private sector across the world. Out of a litter of cubs, the breeders will pick the white cubs that bring in a lot more money on the market and euthanize, inhumanely destroy or neglect the cubs that do not meet the color requirement.
So, this is what happened to Sergei and Sasha, the two Siberian tiger cubs currently residing at Wildlife Survival. A breeder gave the cubs to a private owner because they had no monetary value. Owning two Siberian tigers that can grow to be anywhere between 400 - 800 lbs. is a very costly affair, and private ownership of these Class I cats, the biggest cat in the world, is just not realistic. These animals are not suited for private ownership, they are wild animals and extremely powerful. In this case, the cubs were lucky enough to end up in the hands of a caring and responsible person that was willing to search for a permanent, more suitable, home for them and persisted in her quest.
In the Buddhist religion, followers of the Buddha ride tigers showing off their supernatural ability to overcome evil. The Hindu God Shiva also rides a tiger wearing a tiger skin in his role as the destroyer. There are many different religions in Asia and India that worship the tiger, always symbolized by strength and power. On the island of Sumatra, the Islamic people believe that tigers are sent by Allah to punish sinners.
No matter what religious beliefs you have or what cultural background, once you see a tiger, you will understand why temples and shrines were built to worship these magnificent animals. There are only 5 subspecies alive in the wild today and the numbers are dwindling.
Panthera tigris altaica
The Siberian, Manchurian or Amur tiger is the largest of all cats, weighing up to 800 lbs. in the wild, a fearless predator and often referred to as a "man-eater". Of all the cats, the tiger seems the most playful of them all, especially around water. Who ever said cats do not like water? Forget about that with this carnivore: Show him water and he will be sure to take the plunge.
Status: Critically Endangered (500 left in the wild)
Region: Amur-Ussuri region of Siberia in Russia; North China and Korea
Length: 9-12 feet for males; 7 - 11 for females
Weigth: 220 - 800 lbs (found in the wild at 1000 lbs/male)
Life Span: In the wild: 10 years; In Captivity: 15-20 years.
Diet: Needs at least 20 lbs a day of meat to survive in the wild. However he can eat up to 100 lbs in one meal. Diet consists of deer, wild boar, occasionally fish.
A Siberian tiger can move a prey so large that it would take more than 10 grown men to move it. The success rate for the hunt is usually 1 in 10. The tiger will creep up to its prey and then pounce on it. If anything is left of the carcass, the tiger will bury it and eat from it the next day.
This is a solitary animal that only comes together in mating season or when a female is raising her cubs. A males territory can span up to 400 square miles. A female reaches sexual maturity at about 3 years of age, she will mate and give birth once every 2-3 years over a 12 year period. The gestation period is about 103 days and the litter size is usually 2-3 cubs, blind and helpless weighing only about 2/3 pounds. They can hunt and kill their own prey at 2 years old but will stay with the tigress until they are in between 3 and 5 years old before establishing their own territory.
Threats to the Siberian tiger are: Poaching, disappearing forests and habitats by deforestation, bad weather conditions that cause their prey not to be able to find food which in turn causes scarcity in the tiger's food supply. Other carnivores such as the brown bear will steal their food right out from under them.
The March 2002 AZA Tiger SSP numbers are out and here are the numbers to give you an idea on what is going on.
SSP Wild Tiger Population Report
Amur Tiger : 400 adults in Russia and China considered critically endangered by IUCN/SSC
Sumatran Tiger: 400 adults in Sumatra, considered critically endangered by IUCN/SSC
Indochinese Tiger : 1,200 - 1,400 adults in Asia, considered endangered by IUCN/SSC
SSP Captive Tiger Population
Amur Tiger 149 with 96.7 % gene diversity maintained
Sumatran Tiger 55 with 91.3 % gene diversity
Indochinese Tiger 37 with 80.8 % gene diversity
This page was created by Brigitte Ivory
copyright © 2001 Wildlife Survival Sanctuary Inc