How is a tiger's face like your thumb?

ANSWER: The stripes on the tiger's face are like your thumbprint. No two people have exactly the same thumbprint. And no two tigers have exactly the same stripe pattern.

It takes a lot of muscle to move a 400-pound body (180 kilograms). And a tiger's body is packed with muscle. So it can leap 10 yards (9 meters) over level ground or jump 15 feet (4.5 meters) in the air. Yet it can move so gracefully that it doesn't make a sound.

Tigers are big-game hunters. They hunt water buffalo wild pigs deer and other large animals. Water buffalo weigh more than a ton (900 kilograms). It would take 13 men to move such an enormous weight.

Tigers are also big eaters. In a single year one tiger must eat about 70 deer or other large animals. That is one reason why tigers hunt alone. If they lived in big groups they could never find enough prey to feed them all.

Many people think that a big dangerous tiger could easily kill all the prey it wants. But that's not true. In fact the life of this big game hunter isn't easy. Most of the animals it tries to attack get away. It sometimes goes weeks without eating. And then it may hunt animals that can be dangerous even for a tiger.

To get enough food tigers have to hunt day and night. They often hunt at night because that's when deer and antelope are most active. Tigers also hunt at night because they are safe from humans then.

When it hunts a tiger usually sneaks close to its prey by hiding behind trees bushes and rocks.

Tigers cannot run fast for long distances. So they must get close to their prey before attacking. On their huge padded feet they can creep silently to within 20 feet (6 meters) of another animal without being heard. Its rear legs press beneath it like a pair of giant springs about to be released.

Then in a series of explosive leaps it attacks from behind.

Next the tiger grabs its prey with its claws and pulls it to the ground. It bites the animal on the throat or on the back of the neck

The tiger has had a long history; the name tiger itself comes from the Roman word "Tigris" named after the mighty Mesopotamian Tigris River. The tiger's closest living relative is the lion and believe it or not they can even be interbred. The male tiger can reach sizes of up to 8-10 feet in length with three feet for the tail the male Siberian tiger can reach lengths of up to 13 feet with weights up to 750 pounds. Tigers can be found in a fairly diverse area from north China and Siberia to the jungles of Indonesia even as far west as Iran and the Caucasus Mountains.

The tiger is a solitary animal hunting mainly at night. The tiger's vision and sense of smell are relatively poor; the tiger will rely strongly on its sense of hearing moving silently through the brush waiting to ambush its prey. The tiger's main diet consists of deer antelope wild pigs and cattle. The man-eaters are all too often the sick and injured too weak to hunt and capture wild animals. The tiger would much rather flee rather than stick around and put up a fight.

Tigers are excellent swimmers and will often rest in pools of water just to escape the heat or will swim from island to island such as in the Sumatran islands. Tigers are poor tree climbers often only doing so in emergencies or when they are young (and on occasion just out of curiosity). The Bengal or Indian Tiger is the


The largest of all living tigers lives in the coldest climate; but has thick fur to keep it warm. Its pale color makes it difficult to spot in the bleak snowy landscape of Siberia and also makes it easier to get close to its prey. There are no more than 200 Siberian tigers living in the wild.


The Indian tiger is the most common tiger in the world today. In all there are about 2 500 left and most of them live in India.

Hunting tigers used to be a sport for the rich people of India. But it wasn't really a sport because the tigers had little chance of escape. The hunters rode on elephants while their servants drove the tigers toward their guns. Over the years thousands and thousands of tigers were killed this way.


Their stripes hide them as they stalk prey in the jungle. How? Their stripes look like the shadows of tall blades of grass or like shadows and light playing across trees.

For a fierce hunter you'd think that food would be plentiful. Not true as most attacks fail. There may be weeks without eating.

Some Sumatran villagers believe that the tiger holds magical powers and that it's very bad luck to kill them.


Tigers are among the most admired and most feared animals in the world. When we think of tigers we think of danger. We think of powerful beasts hiding in the dark jungle. We think of the strong jaws big teeth massive feet and long sharp claws of the tiger.

But we also think of beauty. We picture a tiger running swiftly through a jungle or plowing through snowdrifts. Its muscles ripple. Its brilliantly striped orange and black coat gleams like satin. Its steely eyes glare into the distance as it looks for prey.

This animal is a hunter. In fact tigers are probably better than any other land animal at capturing large prey single-handedly. Even so the life of a tiger is not easy. Finding food can be difficult especially for a tiger that is old or weak.

When they are desperate some of them may even attack humans. But tigers also get blamed unfairly for many deaths. Very few people are really killed by tigers each year. Most tigers run away when they see people. And with good reason.

What tigers have done to people is nothing compared to what people have done to tigers. Over the last 200 years we have almost eliminated them in the wild. Today they are one of the most endangered animals on earth.

If humans do not disturb it a tiger may live 20 years or more. Females usually live longer than males because the males live more dangerously. They often fight among each other. Sometimes one of them is killed this way or wounded so badly that it cannot hunt.

It isn't easy for people to tell a male tiger from a female unless the female happens to be with her cubs because only females take care of the young. Otherwise the most obvious difference between males and females is size. Male tigers are much bigger. An adult male Bengal or Indian tiger usually weighs about 420 pounds (190 kilograms) and from head to rear it is roughly seven feet long (2 meters). Females are about a foot shorter (30 centimeters) and they weigh about one hundred pounds less (45 kilograms). Sumatran tigers are generally smaller than Indian or Bengal tigers. The biggest tiger ever measured was a male Siberian Tiger. It was over 9 feet long (2.6 meters) and weighed more than 700 pounds (320 kilograms).

Tigers once roamed over most of Asia. Some trekked over the frozen north others climbed the jagged mountains of Central Asia and many crept through the steamy jungles of the south. The tigers that lived in these different places gradually developed into a number of different types or races.

Although tigers have been able to live in different climates and landscapes they have not been able to live alongside people. In fact people have killed so many tigers that two races may already by extinct.

The Bengal tiger is the most common tiger in the world today. In all there are about 2 500 Bengal tigers and most of them live in India. The Caspian tiger is one that you will only see in pictures. This beautiful cat is now extinct. The Chinese tiger used to live in most parts of China. Today there are fewer than a hundred Chinese tigers in the whole country.

The Siberian tiger is the largest of all living tigers. It also lives in the coldest climate but it has very thick fur to keep it warm. And its pale color makes it hard to see in the bleak snowy landscape of Siberia. This makes it easier to get close to its prey. There are no more than 200 Siberian tigers living in the wild.

Sumatran and Javan tigers live on land south of the Asian continent. Their islands are covered by heavy tropical jungles. To help them run and hide in the jungle these tigers are smaller than other tigers. Today there are fewer than 30 Sumatran and Javan tigers left in the wild.

The body of a tiger is like a deadly weapon. It has the quickness and strength to take down animals twice its size. It has long razor-sharp claws for grabbing its prey. And it has enormous teeth which can easily kill large animals.

But a tiger is also very quiet. It can sneak up on its prey without being seen or heard. And its stripes help it do this because they make it easier for the tiger to hide. You will also discover another reason why a tiger's stripes are interesting. You can learn to tell one tiger from another by its stripes.

Like other cats tigers usually keel their claws hidden beneath the fur. This way the claws do not wear down too quickly. And they won't make noise when the tiger steps on rocks or hard ground. When it wants to use its claws for grabbing or scratching the tiger will extend them.

Tigers have longer canine teeth than any other predator. One of these teeth is at least 10 times longer than the biggest tooth in your mouth. Using its big canine teeth and its broad powerful paws a tiger can kill its prey with one quick bite.


Tigers and other predators play an important role in nature. By killing deer and other prey they keep the numbers of these animals under control. And because of this the animals that survive are healthier.

If there were no tigers in the wild the number of prey animals would grow too fast. At first they would eat so much that they would destroy many plants. And then many of these animals would go hungry.

A big hungry tiger can eat about 100 pounds of meat (45 kilograms) at one sitting. This is about one fifth of its total weight. That would be like a 10-year-old human eating 40 hamburgers in one meal. Of course a tiger has to eat this much because it often goes several days without eating anything.

On occasion a tiger will attack a baby rhino. This can be dangerous though because the mother rhino is probably close by. And even a tiger does not want to make a four-thousand-pound rhino (1 800 kilograms) angry!

If a tiger is hungry enough it may even attack a bear. But that may be a big mistake.

Baby tigers look like cute kittens. At birth they are about 12 inches long (30 centimeters) and they weigh less than two pounds (one kilogram). But in a year's time these "kittens" will be big enough to hunt deer and buffalo.

A mother tiger usually gives birth to two three or four cubs at a time. This is necessary so that at least one of her cubs will survive. Many predators attack tiger cubs. To help keep them safe the mother stays with her cubs for three or four years. During this time the young tigers have a lot to learn from her if they are to hunt and survive on their own.

Animals unlike man must either capture prey or evade predators. In order for these animals such as the tiger to get close enough to its prey for the attack these animals must be able to hide or blend in with the background. That way the prey animal does not know that they are there…

The tiger uses what is known as disruptive camouflage which means that instead of blending in with it's surroundings the tiger uses it's stripes to break it's outline or familiar shapes into smaller unfamiliar shapes.

Like all young animals cubs are full of energy. They spend their days wrestling chasing each other and darting after butterflies. All this exercise helps prepare them for their first real hunt. And they are ready for this when they are about six months old.

It's hard to believe that in just six months a playful little cub will be a ferocious hunter. By then it will weigh almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and have four big canine teeth for attacking prey.

A female tiger is one of the most loving and caring mothers in the animal kingdom. She cuddles her babies to keep them warm. She feeds them and protects them from enemies. For three years or more she looks after them teaching them how to hunt and survive in the wild.

This cub is only a few weeks old. In the wild cubs are usually born in caves and other protected places. The mother keeps them there and brings them food for about three months. After that the cubs are big enough to follow her as she hunts for prey.

The life of a baby tiger can be dangerous. If a mother leaves her cubs even for a short time they may be attacked by predators. Some of the animals that like to eat tiger cubs are leopards (left) pythons (below left) and hyenas (below right).



One chapter in the Zoological Society's clouded leopard story began early in 1983 with the arrival of a young pair of cats from the People's Republic of China. The cats were a welcome addition to the Society collection. Staff prepared a plan to encourage successful breeding but unfortunately tragedy occurred before the plan could be implemented.

In the exhibit the female was accidentally exposed to a male which severely mauled her right foreleg and shoulder.

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