Habitat destruction is one of the main causes why tigers have become endangered. So, it is just right to discuss what the habitat had been like and is like.
Tigers used to populate several areas of Asia, including Bali, Java and Sumatra, which are Indonesian islands. Another area that has been populated by tigers is the one that spans from the Caucasus to Siberia.
In the 20th century, tigers in western Asia have been destroyed. There are just a few isolated areas in which they still remain.
These days, tigers can be found in the areas from India to China and Southeast Asia. The northern part of the territory is near the Amur River, which in turn is in the south eastern part of Siberia. Sumatra is the only large island that is still populated by tigers. This is because the tigers of Bali have already been destroyed back in the 1940s while the tigers near the Caspian Sea were annihilated during the 1970s. During the 1980s, the Java tigers have been destroyed. Tiger killings and habitat destruction have caused the mentioned decrease and destruction of tiger populations. There is still a continuous decrease in the destruction of tiger population in the different forests of the southern parts of Asia.
The destruction has been great that the beginning of the 21st century has become the witness of the shrinking of the tigers' historical range by a whopping 93%. To zero into just one decade, which is the one from 1997 to 2007, the total area populated by tigers has decreased by 41%.
Fossil remains from the Holocene and late Pleistocene ages show that tigers used to live in the Philippines, in the islands of Borneo and Palawan. Tiger habitats come with adequate water or at least proximity to water, abundance of prey and enough cover.
Bengal tigers habituate several kinds of forests, such as evergreen, semi-evergreen and wet forests in Assam and Bengal. The tigers also live in Ganges Delta’s mangrove forest, as well as Nepal’s deciduous forest and the Western Ghats’ thorn forests.
Tigers prefer to live in areas with dense vegetation because it is in these areas that they can better use their camouflage.
A Sense of Territory
A habitat is not just a place to live and prey in but also a place for tigers to congregate and to establish a sense of territory. It is where adult tigers may also live solitary lives. Also, tigers tend to limit their movements within that habitat. A habitat is therefore a place where they satisfy all their needs. Tigresses also use the habitat to give birth to and grow cubs. Those that do live together know the other tigers’ activities, much like in a family unit. The area that is considered to be the group’s home has a size that depends not just on the number of male and female tigers but also on the abundance of prey. A tigress, for example, will need a 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) territory. A male tiger requires a larger territory, such as one that covers 60 to 100 square kilometers (23 to 39 square miles).
Most of tigers’ habitats are near a body of water, such as a lake, pond or river. This is because tigers are good at swimming and they usually cool down in pools. Tigers are such strong swimmers that they can even tread through water while carrying prey.
Despite the fact that tigers do come together, they are generally solitary. Their relationships with other tigers are pretty complex and there aren’t even fixed rules when it comes to keeping and stealing territories. Also, males and females have been recorded to have shared kills at times. For example, George Schaller saw a male killer hunt and kill together with a couple of females, as well as four cubs. Usually, females do not want males to go near their cubs. So, if they can hunt comfortably with their cubs and a certain male, that male must have been the cubs’ father. One of the interesting facts about male tigers is that they can behave like perfect gentlemen by letting females and cubs feed first – before they do. Male lions, in contrast, would feed first. Generally, anyway, tigers, even those unfamiliar with each other, can companionably feed together compared to lions that would even fight over food. This phenomenon has been observed.
Gender Differences in Habitat Choice
When female tigers are still young, they start establishing territories near their mothers’. However, time sees a decrease in the territory overlap. Males wander further and mark their own area at a younger age. Males usually challenge or usurp other tigers’ territories, take over unmarked ones or live peacefully under an older male, waiting to later take over that territory. Most of the adult tigers that die consist of young males that have just left the habitat of their birth. When they are seeking territories elsewhere, they are more vulnerable to all sorts of dangers, including those caused by territorial disputes.
There will be disputes as male tigers tend to have no patience for other males usurping their territory or living within that same territory. Females are more tolerant to living with other females. It is good to note though that usually male tigers make use of intimidation poses instead of direct aggression. The weaker tiger will accept its defeat by lying on its back to show its belly. This is a submissive pose for a tiger. Once the winning tiger establishes its dominance then it may be able to live peacefully near, but not within confined quarters, with the weaker tiger.
During mating season, the disputes are at their most violent between territorial males. Such disputes may cause the death of one of the aggressors. However, such an event is rare.
Declaring or Marking Territory
Much like other animals that are marking their territory, the male tiger declares an area its territory by the use of urine and even anal gland secretions. The males also sniff the female tigers' urine trail to figure out what their reproductive condition is like.
Tigers also roar, just like other members of the Panthera species. The roar may not be for aggressive reasons all the time. Tigers also chuff, growl, hiss and moan.
Studying Tigers in their Habitats
Various methods have been used in studying tigers while they are in their habitats. Pugmarks have been placed in plaster casts. You may not be abe to vouch for its full accuracy, however. Other methods used are camera trapping, radio collaring and scat DNA evaluation, each with their own degrees of accuracy.
Hunting for Food
One of the important qualities of a good habitat is the presence of prey or food. Tigers tend to go for medium to large animals when in the wild. Examples of tigers’ favorite prey in India are barasingha, chital, domestic buffalo, gaur, nilgai, water buffalo and wild boar. Tigers also go after crocodiles, pythons, leopards and sloth bears. Siberian tigers prey on Manchurian wapiti, moose, musk deer, roe deer, sika deer and wild boar. Sumatran tigers prey on Malayan tapir, muntjac, sambar and muntjac. As for those who live near the Caspian Sea, the usual preys are Caucasian wisent, cames, saiga antelope, wild horses and yak. Tigers will also take advantage of fish, hares, monkeys and peafowls.
There are some animals that are too large to eat but can have conflicts with tigers. Examples are adult elephants and some rhinoceros. There are still cases of tigers killing rhinoceros or taking young elephants. Tigers even prey on domesticated animals such as cows, dogs, donkeys and horses. Tigers have been named as “cattle lifters” or “cattle killers”, instead of “game killers”. The latter term would have been typical.
Some tigers have even turned on humans, thus becoming marked as man-eaters. These are the older tigers or those that have been wounded or unable to catch their usual prey.
While tigers may look completely carnivorous, they actually eat vegetation, as well.