Animal Behaviour – The Tiger

Tigers (Panthera Tigris) in the Wild

The tiger, native to eastern and southern Asia, is the largest of the four big predatory cats. (BBC) Their habitat range from open grassland savannah to tropical and evergreen forests, rocky county and mangrove swamps. They like to have several hiding places or dens where they can go and rest or get out of the heat of the sun. They are generally a solitary animal that demand a substantial area to support their own individual predatory instincts. (BBC) They are timid and secretive creatures. (All About Tigers)

Tigers choose their territory by the amount of prey that is available so this can vary for males from a highly populated prey area of about 5 to 150km2 and between 800 and 1200km2 where concentration of prey is much lower but only between 20 to 30 km2 for females. The male tiger is intolerant of other males and their territory usually overlaps that of several females while the females share their patches with each. This allows one female to suckle their young while the other goes out to hunt. (Seaworld)

They declare their territory by spraying urine or pheromone secretions from special scent glands mark or by leaving their dung in areas as a way to communicate information to other members of the same species; cubs follow their mother’s footsteps by smelling the individual scent that their scent glands secreted from in between the tiger’s toes leaves behind. Another reason for scenting is to ward off any potential predatory or invading animal that may happen to wonder into their space and to alert males when females are in season. (BBC)

They also enhance their olfactory senses by clawing at trees (see picture below). (Seaworld)

Heavily muscled with powerful forequarters, tigers are able to bring down prey much larger than themselves and can jump up to 6 meters in length. When stalking its prey the tiger crawls slowly towards it prey with its belly close to the ground, its stripy coat help to camouflage it against the grassy landscape, making them almost impossible to detect in dappled light (see picture below). (BBC)

They hunt alone, ambushing their prey from the side or rear, rushing it at the last moment to knock it to the ground where they can bite the throat and snap the head back in order to sever the spinal cord or press onto the windpipe thus causing the animal to suffocate (see picture below). (BBC)

The dead prey is then dragged off to a safe place where the tiger consumes around 30kg of meat, leaving the rest covered under grass or debris, to be eaten over several days. As the hunt expends a huge amount of energy, failing to kill at least 90% attempts, the rest of their time is spent either relaxing or sleeping. They have excellent night vision and hearing also so therefore prefers primarily to hunt after dark, picking off the young and hopefully avoiding being injured by larger prey that could potentially cause them injury, leaving them to starve to death. (BBC)

A male shows his aggression by rapidly swinging their tails from side to side. When relaxed their tails hang down loosely. Fighting amongst males is normally avoided but when they do, it is normally to claim a female for themselves, the victor will then go on to produce strong cubs. Mating can happen all year round whenever the female is on heat. The male calls to the female and the face takes on the flehman expression where the mouth opens and the lips curl, the nose wrinkles and the tongue sticks out. The mating ritual can be quite brutal with mock charges and heavy swipes with the forepaws (see picture below). Once mating is done, the male retreats back to his own territory before the female has a chance to turn on him. (BBC)

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