Panthera tigris altaica - Siberian tiger
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Panthera tigris altaica
Common name: Siberian tiger
- Body length: from 2.20 m (including 60 cm of tail) to 3.75 m (including 95 cm of tail)
- Height at the withers(1): 1.0 - 1.5 m
- Weight: male: 180 - 300 kg; female: 100 - 165 kg
- Lifespan: 15 years in the wild; 26 years in captivity
- Sexual maturity: female 3-4 years; male 4-5 years
HABITAT AND GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION
At one time the Siberian tiger was found throughout the whole territory of Siberia, even in the most inaccessible areas. Today, however, it has moved further south, in the areas of south-eastern Siberia, in northern Manchuria and in North Korea, living in the vast deciduous forests in fairly restricted areas due to the exploitation of natural resources by man.
CHARACTER, BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL LIFEThe Siberian tiger is generally a solitary animal and this is probably due to the fact that it needs vast territories (between 500 and 4000 km2) to hunt and the territories of two adult males never overlap. Only with females can there be sharing.
The Siberian tiger marks its territory with urine and feces and scratches on tree trunks to keep other tigers away.
If an adult male enters the territory of another adult male there will surely be a struggle especially if there is a female in heat or if food is scarce.
The longest coexistence is only the one that occurs between the mother and her little ones who live together for even three years, until the little ones go their own way.
The Siberian tiger is a mighty animal and is the largest feline in existence. He has a very powerful body and musculature and despite his considerable weight he is extremely agile. It has a thick layer of subcutaneous fat that allows it to survive the Siberian cold.
He has very acute eyesight (about six times that of humans) both day and night. The skull is very large enough to provide excellent anchoring to the powerful jaw muscles. It has canines up to 13 cm long which are used to block and kill the prey while the premolars and molars are used to grind the food. A peculiarity is the tongue equipped with numerous thorns that are used by the Siberian tiger to skin the prey and remove the flesh from the bones, as well as to clean and drink.
The legs are equipped with five long curved and retractable claws also equipped with soft pads that allow the Siberian tiger to silently approach its prey.
There are several ways in which Siberian tigers communicate with each other: smell, visual cues, sounds.
The sounds can be different: they can roar, grunt, hiss, growl, groan. Each sound has its own meaning and reflects what the tiger wants to do or his mood. Roaring is typically a dominance message, telling other animals how loud the roaring individual is and their social standing.
To delimit its territory, the Siberian tiger scratches the bark of trees or other surfaces and then sprays urine mixed with a fragrant liquid that serves to indicate to other tigers a whole range of information such as sex, social status, size and also, in the case of a female, if it is available for mating.
The preferred diet are pigs, deer, bears, small birds and even fish that the Siberian tiger hunts relying mainly on sight and hearing as the sense of smell is not particularly developed. In fact, the Siberian tiger locates its prey from the tracks it follows like a real hound by approaching as much as possible against the wind so as not to let its smell be heard and when it reaches about 15 m away it leaps on the victim and kills it. .
It prefers to hunt at night, when its favorite prey (ungulates) are most active.
If the prey is small then it is killed by a bite on the neck thus cutting the spinal cord; if it is a large prey, then the Siberian tiger grabs it by the neck and suffocates it by squeezing the trachea.
Once killed, it is dragged to one side and then eaten. If the prey is large and is not eaten all at once, then the tiger hides it with grass and earth, to prevent other animals from eating it, to feed on it later.
The Siberian tiger can eat up to 50 kg of meat in one meal.
REPRODUCTION AND GROWTH OF CHILDREN
Mating between these animals can take place at any time of the year even if it preferably occurs during the winter period.
Once the female the female Siberian tiger signals to the male with the urine and with the scratches on the tree trunks its willingness to mate, the two live together for 2-3 days before mating and, once this has happened, the male leaves the female who will be the only one to take care of the offspring.
Gestation lasts about 4 months and 2 to 3 puppies are delivered.
Weaning takes place when the chicks have reached 6 months of age even if already from the age of 2-3 months the mother begins to bring small prey to the little ones.
The young when they are six months old begin to follow their mother in the hunt to learn and stay with her until the age of about two to three years.
The Siberian tiger has no natural enemies, except man. Small males can be killed by adult males.
STATE OF THE POPULATION
The Siberian tiger is classified on the IUNC Red List as an animal at very high risk of extinction ENDANGERED (EN) with less than 400 examples worldwide.
The biggest threat today for the Siberian tiger is the man who destroys its natural habitat, relegating it to increasingly marginal and food-poor areas.
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ECOSYSTEM IMPORTANCE
The Siberian tiger is very important in the ecosystem to control the population of large herbivores.
It is an animal that constitutes a great resource for zoos and natural areas controlled by man, as an important economic resource (ecotourism).
Although there are now few specimens left, poaching is unfortunately still widespread as its fur is considered very valuable for making carpets.
If all the puppies were to die within five months of giving birth, the mother is able to give birth to another litter.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used parts of the tiger for many years to prepare medicines for example to become as strong and ferocious as this animal.
To hear the noises emitted by this animal, go to the article: The sounds made by the tiger
(1) Withers: region of the body of the quadrupeds between the upper edge of the neck and the back and above the shoulders, in practice the highest area of the animal's body.