Known as the world's largest cat, the Siberian or Amur tiger is endangered. Found in mainly in Eastern Russia’s forests, as well as North Korea and China, the population dropped at an alarming rate from 1910 to 1940. Only about 500 of these tigers are in captivity, and the number of wild Siberian tigers is estimated to about 400 to 500 today.
The Siberian tiger closely resembles other breeds of tiger, but there are distinguishing characteristics. Size is one of the most visible, as the Siberian tiger is much larger than any other, including the Bengal. Another difference between the two is that the Siberian tiger can thrive in almost any climate, and has fur that adapts for extreme temperatures, though they prefer temperate conditions. Though solitary creatures, the females remain with their cubs for up to three years. The males have no part in raising their young, which do not learn to hunt until they are about 1 1/2 years old.
Destruction of Habitat
Forest provides the needed habitat to Siberian tigers. Logging destroys their hunting grounds. Tree wood (sometimes illegally logged or sold as wholesale) becomes furniture and structural support, and many humans also hunt and eat the same prey that the tigers do. With nowhere to live and hunt, the tigers are forced to move into smaller areas.
Loss of Food Sources
Siberian tigers rely on prey such as deer, fish, bears and rabbits. When these animals disappear, tigers turn to domesticated animals. Humans see tigers as a direct threat and may shoot or kill them, and spooked tigers may attack humans. One Chinese farmer in Xigou village, near the border with North Korea, reported that he found a Siberian tiger in his backyard in March 2013. The animal went on to attack his cattle.
The hide, meat and other body parts of the Siberian tiger are worth a great deal of money, even though they are illegal to hunt. To the elite Chinese, Siberian tiger meat is considered a delicacy, and other body parts -- bones, whiskers and teeth -- are used in traditional medicine. Poaching is also contributing to the reduction of the Siberian tiger population in the wild.
To counteract the dwindling population, the governments of the countries these tigers call home have set up nature preserves in an attempt to stabilize the numbers. And captive populations are monitored and carefully bred with the hope of keeping the species alive. In Russia, the Sikhote-Alin Reserve offers these animals a 10,400 square foot preserve, where they cannot be disturbed. The reserve offers the tigers the chance to roam, hunt and breed without fear of human interaction or loss of habitat.
- National Geographic: Siberian Tiger
- The Guardian: China Reports Rise in Humans Encountering Wild Siberian Tigers
- World Wildlife Fund: Amur Tiger
- The Seattle Times: Poachers Thinning Ranks of Hardy Siberian Tigers
- National Geographic News: Wild Tiger Populations Stabilizing, Groups Say
- The Guardian: China Marks Year of Tiger with Drive to Save Biggest Cat
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images