A century ago, more than 100,000 tigers from eight sub-species were distributed across an area stretching from Turkey in the west across Asia to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the last 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range and 3 sub-species have become extinct during the 20th century: the Balinese Tiger, the Caspian Tiger and the Javanese Tiger. Today, the global population is estimated to be less than 5,000 individuals.
Tigers have historically been hunted for sport – their size and the difficulty to locate them on the ground have made them a special challenge for hunters. Between the years 1875 to 1925, 57,000 tigers were hunted in India - 10 times more than the remaining number of tigers living in the entire world today. Today, tigers are still poached over large areas of Asia, mainly to supply body parts for East Asian traditional medicine markets. Sometimes tigers are also killed to prevent losses of domestic livestock.
Tigers are solitary hunters of their prey. Females will sometimes include cubs in hunting for the purpose of teaching their offspring until they are completely independent. Tigers may eat their prey over several days, depending on the size of the animal hunted. Tigers can eat up to 18 kg of meat at one meal and then fast for a few days until the next successful kill.
Pregnancy lasts about 103 days and usually 2-3 cubs are born. Cubs are born blind and weighing around 1 kg. At first the cubs are dependent on their mother's milk, and after around six weeks she lets them taste the flesh of caught prey. Eventually they join her on hunts. At the age of eighteen months, cubs begin to hunt by themselves and remain in their mother’s territory for about a year and a half to two and a half years, depending on whether the mother gave birth to a new group of cubs. They then leave to establish their own territory. Females tend to stay closer to their mothers’ territory.
Tigers live in dense forests or areas with tall grass. Most of them live in warm areas, but some live in very cold areas such as Siberia. Territory size of a tiger is determined by food availability and can range from 13 square kilometers in areas with a particular abundance of food to 640 square kilometers over the sparse areas of eastern Russia. The territory of females is usually smaller than that of males. The territory of a male tiger will usually overlap the territories of several females so occasionally some males can share the same movement paths but not at the same time. Both males and females spray urine and liquid from their scent glands to mark their territory; and scratch markings on tree trunks and soil also mark their territorial limits.