The tiger is a powerful living symbol inspiring art across different cultures. The largest big cat species in the world, tigers are fascinating animals. From their unique stripe patterns to their mighty roar, they epitomise the majesty and power of the wild kingdom. And yet, they are most endangered big cat in the world.
During this Year of the Tiger, WWF Tiger Trail presented 33 life-sized tiger art sculptures, designed by renowned international and local artists, set against the backdrop of iconic Singapore landmarks from 26 February to 9 April. The works along with more than twenty unique art pieces will be offered at a Sotheby’s online auction, closing soon on 5 May. The proceeds will support Tiger Conservation programmes across Southeast Asia, where tiger populations are most at risk.
The sculptures, paintings, prints, and ceramics by internationally acclaimed artists came together to raise awareness of the tiger’s role in mitigating climate change and protecting biodiversity, and to give them a chance to make a comeback. Each work represents a unique perspective on how climate change, poaching and deforestation are affecting tigers in the wild. Read more about the artists’ voices on the Tiger Trail. As a way to celebrate these majestic creatures, we present fifteen facts about the tiger.
1. Tigers have been around for a very long time.
Tigers existed for as long as two million years. Early in the 20th century, 100,000 wild tigers roamed freely on Earth. Today, there are only about 3,900 tigers left in the wild. While tigers have been around longer than humans, the impacts of human development have caused their population to decline by 97% since the start of the previous century.
2. Tigers are found only in Asia.
Tigers one lived across Asia from dense rainforests to dry grasslands, from eastern Turkey and the Caspian Sea south of the Tibetan plateau eastward to Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk. Tigers were also found in northern Iran, Afghanistan, the Indus valley of Pakistan, and the islands of Java and Bali.
3. Tigers are endangered. Here’s what’s putting them at risk:
Human development. In the last 150 years, as a result of rampant poaching and unchecked habitat destruction, the tiger’s range has shrunk by more 95%.
4. The largest numbers of wild tigers are found in India.
Close to 3,000 of the world’s wild tigers are in India, which have more than half the world’s population of tigers.
5. There have been nine different types of tigers.
Of the nine types of tigers, six are endangered and three are extinct. The two recognized tiger subspecies are commonly referred to as the ‘continental tiger’ and the ‘Sunda island tiger’. All remaining island tigers are found only in Sumatra, with tigers in Java and Bali now extinct. The continental tigers currently include the Bengal, Malayan, Indochinese and Amur (Siberian) tiger populations, while the Caspian tiger is extinct in the wild. The South China tiger is believed to be functionally extinct.
6. A tiger’s stripes are unique.
Like the human fingerprint, each tiger’s stripe pattern is one of a kind. Individual tigers are identified by their unique stripes and counted using camera images to estimate population numbers.
7. Tigers are incredibly adaptable.
Tigers can survive in extreme temperatures and are found in amazingly diverse habitats: rain forests, grasslands, savannas and even mangrove swamps.
8. Tigers communicate with their ears.
Tiger have ocellus, or markings that appear like eyes, on their ears. These false eyes are defence mechanisms to ward off opportunist predators. Tigers also use their ears to communicate. For example, a tigress uses the white spots on the back of her ears to communicate with her cubs. They act as a flasher to the cubs, when a tigress senses danger she flattens her ears and the cubs respond by crouching down and hiding.
9. A tiger’s roar can travel far.
The mighty roar of a tiger can carry as far as three kilometres. The vocal repertoire of tigers is vast – they grunt, growl, roar, moan, snarl, chuff, hiss and gasp. It’s thought that each vocalisation is used to communicate different things.
10. Tigers are silent hunters.
Tigers have soft toe pads which help them walk silently through their habitat. A tiger will typically travel ten-to-nineteen kilometres during a night’s hunting.
11. Tigers usually have one main meal a week.
Tigers’ main prey is deer but they also eat wild boar. For tigers, only one in ten hunts are successful, a large deer can provide a tiger with one week’s food.
12. There are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild.
There are 3,900 tigers in the wild, while both China and the United States each have more than an estimated 5,000 tigers in captivity. There are some legitimate conservation breeding programmes for tigers, and where managed captive tigers could be used to re-establish wild populations. However, many tiger farms profit from putting their tigers and their parts and products into trade. This perpetuates and even stimulates demand that also drives the poaching of wild tigers.
13. Tiger are loners.
Tigers are mostly solitary, apart from associations between mother and offspring. Individual tigers have a large territory, and the size is determined mostly by the availability of prey
14. Tigers are natural guardians of the forests.
Protecting a tiger means protecting its home range, which can cover up to 10,000 hectares of forests, providing clean air, fresh water, food and medicine that we need. For the long-term survival of tigers in the wild, it isn’t just about the numbers. One of the biggest threats to tigers is habitat degradation and loss.
15. There are several ways the WWF are working to protect the tiger.
Bringing arts and wildlife conservation together, Sotheby’s presents a special auction with the World Wide Fund for Nature, Singapore to increase awareness of the urgent action needed to protect tigers. Funds raised will support Tiger Conservation programmes across Southeast Asia, where tiger populations are most at risk. Tigers are already extinct in Singapore, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam. Proceeds will deliver impact in Malaysia and Thailand, as well as in Singapore.