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The Caspian Tiger

Iran Nature and Wildlife Magazine

Embranchement: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species : P. tigris
Sub-Species : P.t. virgata

Features : This tiger is a large carnivore with a body length of up to 290 cm and tail 110 cm, weighing up to 320 Kg. Body is elongated and strong, hand and legs medium sized with wide paws and very large nails. Ears are short and spherical without the appearance of hairs on the tips. Cheek hair is considerably long and body hair thick. Background colour of the body is ochre with darker, blackish, less wide stripes.

Habitat : Forests, isolated regions where animals such as wild pigs and other ungulates are numerous, mangrove swamps and shrubby regions near water.

Behaviour : Tigers usually live solitary, male and female hunting and eating separately. They become most active at night but may also be seen during the day.The tiger is a strong, active, resistant and quiet animal, stalking in such a manner that is not seen until very near distances. Therefore, it gets very close to its prey before jumping on it. The tiger kills its prey immediately by breaking the cervical vertebrae and crushing the skull.

Food and hunting : The tiger hunts alone, usually going for larger hoofed mammals such as deers and cows, which are carried or dragged into a suitable place like dense cover. There, he commences feeding at leisure, usually starting with the rump. At this time, he may only eat a small part and leave the kill until later that afternoon. The tiger takes its time consuming the kill and this may involve several days, usually three. However they stay near the kill during this time, feeding at leisure until only skin and bones are left. Then they make for streams or other water courses to drink water and often lie or stand in it. A tiger will usually eat whatever it can catch, but the larger ungulates form the bulk of the diet. They may also take livestock or attack wounded tigers, especially when wild prey is depleted. In such cases, they may even hunt smaller mammals and birds, fish, turtles, insects and the carcass of other animals.

Breeding : Sexual maturity is reached by 3-4 years of age. Gestation period is between 105-113 days, during which the tigress readily continues to hunt for prey. Three to four cubs are born although up to 6 cubs is not unusual. However, rarely more than two of them live and usually, the dead or weak cubs are eaten by the mother. The newly born cubs weigh about 1400 grammes, and are blind for the first two weeks. They grow very fast, being reared by the female alone. They are totally dependant on their mother for food until they are approximately 18 months old. They also learn hunting from their mother. As soon as the cubs reach sexual maturity, they are driven away by their father to seek their own home ranges. The female is ready to mate again three years after giving birth. Tigers have a life span of about 20 years.

Distribution in Iran : It is likely that the domain of the Caspian tiger was the low-land forest and marshes bordering the Caspian Sea. As the low lands were converted to agricultural land, the tiger likely withdrew to the middle and upper forest belt, to which it was not properly adapted. There have been no reports of the Caspian Tiger for almost 30 years and it is likely extinct. Skins and several photographs remain by which to describe the tiger. One specimen of its skin kept in the British Museum shows the colour of the skin along the back and sides to be yellow-goldish with light brown or dark stripes. The sides are lighter in colour in comparison with the back. Underneath belly is white with yellow stripes; face yellow with brown stripes on forehead and white patches around eyes and cheeks. Outer surface of the legs are yellow, inner parts white. Chest is the same colour as belly and tail is formed of yellow and yellowish white stripes. Since the last reliable report of this tiger about 30 years ago, it seems that any efforts to find it, has been hopeless. It is likely that this magnificent creature has indeed passed into oblivion and like the Persian Lion, is extinct. The main reason for their extinction, besides over hunting and destruction of their habitats, has been noted as the reduction in the number of boars, which is their main food.