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The Tiger(Panthera Tigris) is the largest member of the felidae family and is one of the four big cats in the Panthera genus. The tiger as a whole is an endangered species, with the majority of the world's tigers now living in captivity. Several subspecies are extinct and others critically endangered. The species name tigris is Greek for "arrow". Their historical range (severely diminished today) ran through Russia, Siberia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, China and south-east Asia, including the Indonesian islands.
The South China Tiger (panthera tigris amoyensis)
The South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), is also known as the Chinese, Amoy, or Xiamen tiger. It is one of the world's 10 most endangered animals and the most endangered of the six surviving tiger subspecies. There are few if any in the wild (between 10 to 30), and around 100 in captivity at present. The Chinese Tiger originated in China two million years ago and is commonly believed to be the ancestral root tiger from which all other subspecies of tiger (Bengal, Siberian etc) are derived.
The South China tiger is believed to have a more archaic skull, whose ratio of the length and width is relatively larger than other tiger subspecies. Its body is slim with a slender waist. It is distinguishable from other tiger subspecies by its narrower face, longer nose, more intense orange color, short fur, longer legs, and shorter & broader stripes which are spaced far apart compared with those of Bengal and Siberian tigers. Based on the researches of felidae zoologist V. Mazak, the South China tigers have the least number of stripes of all subspecies. The diamond-shaped patterns of the stripes can often be found on the sides of the South China Tiger and it is the next smallest tiger after the Sumatran tiger.
A male Chinese tiger measures from 230 to 265 cm (91 to 104 in) straight-line, and weigh 130 to 175 kg (290 to 390 lb). Females are smaller and measure 220 to 240 cm (87 to 94 in) and weigh 110 to 115 kg (240 to 250 lb). Greatest length of skull in males is 318 to 343 mm (12.5 to 13.5 in), and in females 273 to 301 mm (10.7 to 11.9 in).
In 1950's the South China tiger along with other predators such as leopards and wolves was declared to be pests and "enemies of the people", because they attacked the livestock of farmers and villagers. Becoming widely persecuted, the wild population of the South China Tiger fell from more than 4,000 to less than 200 by 1982. The Chinese government then reversed the classification of the tiger, banning hunting altogether in 1977, but this seems to have been too late. In 2000, Save China's Tiger charity was founded in London to work with China in an effort to bring the South China tiger back from the brink of extinction.
Other Tiger Subspecies
There are nine tiger subspecies (although some experts do not believe there are any subspecies but it is a matter of scale). Three subspecies are extinct. The list below is arranged in order of the size of each subspecies.
-Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Siberian, Manchurian or North China tiger, is confined completely to the Amur region in far eastern Siberia. The Amur tiger is noted for its thick coat, distinguished by a paler golden hue, it is the subspecies which has the least stripes. The Amur tiger is not only the largest tiger subspecies but also the largest and heaviest of all naturally-occurring felines. The wild Amur tiger population is estimated to be between 400 to 500. Males reach a body length of 190-220 centimetres. An average male weighs around 230 kg.
- Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is found in parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. The Bengal tiger is regarded as the most common tiger subspecies living in the wild, but a recent state-by-state cenus conducted in Bangladesh on Early August this year estimates that the wild Bengal tiger population in India is around 1300-1500. This suggest that the wild population of this subspecies is near equal to the wild population of another subspecies, the Indochinese tiger. The length of a male is 275-310 cm, their weight is normally ranges from 180 to 258kg
- Caspian tiger or Persian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) was the westernmost subspecies of tiger, found in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Caucasus, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan until it apparently became extinct in the 1970s. Of all the tigers known to the world, the Caspian tiger was the third largest, only smaller than the Amur and the Bengal tiger. The Caspian tiger is known to have followed the migratory herds of their preferred prey animals. In recognition of this the Kazakh people referred to this tiger as the "road" or "travelling leopard".
- Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The scientific name of the subspecies, Panthera tigris corbetti, is named in honor of Jim Corbett. The wild population of this subspecies is estimated to be around 1200-1800. The average male Indochinese tiger is approximately 2.74 m in length and weighs about 180 kg while the average Indochinese tigress is approximately 2.44 m in length and weighs about 115 kg.
- Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is exclusively found in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, until 2004 was not considered a subspecies in its own right. The scientific name of the subspecies, Panthera tigris jacksoni, is named in honor ofPeter Jackson. The Malayan Tiger, along with the Sumatran tiger, is perhaps the smallest subspecies of tiger. The average weight of these tigers are120 kg for adult males and 100 kg for females. Male Malayan tigers measures around 237cm in length and female Malayan tigress around 200cm in length.
- Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) was a tiger limited to the Indonesian island of Java. It was made extinct in the 1980s, as a result of hunting and habitat destruction. The last specimen was sighted in 1972. Javan tigers are very small compared to other subspecies. Males are 100-141 kg on average and around 8'1" in length. Females weigh 75-115 kg on average and are smaller than males in length.
- Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)It is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of all still existing tiger subspecies. Male Sumatran tigers average 234 cm in length from head to tail and weigh about 136 kg. Females average 198 cm in length and weigh about 91 kg. Its stripes are narrower than other subspecies of tigers' stripes, and it has a more bearded and maned appearance, especially the males. The wild population is estimated at between 400 and 500
- Bali Tiger or Balinese Tiger(Panthera tigris balica). It was the smallest of the tiger sub-species, with males weighing around 90-100 kg and measures 7'-3" to 7'-7". The last tiger was shot in 1925, and the sub-species was declared extinct on September 27, 1937. The species became extinct due to habitat loss and hunting. Bali tigers had short fur that was deep orange colored and darker and occasionaly black spots between their stripes.