The Tiger (Panthera Tigris) has always had a fearsome reputation and the notorious “Man-eater of Champawat” in India was reputed to have killed 436 people. Today it is generally accepted that only old or injured tigers, unable to capture their usual prey, will attack humans. This powerful cat has no predators other than man. It has suffered drastically from being hunted as a trophy, for its strikingly beautiful skin and for many of its body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. 3 of the 9 subspecies are now extinct and the others threatened. The Siberian or Amur Tiger, the largest subspecies, is the most at risk. Only about 600 remain in the wild and, despite the protection afforded by international treaties, the WWF protection group reported 3 Amur tigers killed by poachers in December 2003. The tiger’s famous stripe patterns are unique: like human fingerprints, no 2 are the same. Tigers are solitary rather than pack animals. The usual social group is a female and her young, who stay together until the cubs are ready to establish their own territory, at around 24-30 months.
Tigers hunt alone. One bite from their exceptionally powerful jaws is usually fatal. The tiger is among the most recognisable and popular of the world’s charismatic megafauna. It featured prominently in the ancient mythology and folklore of cultures throughout its historic range, and continues to be depicted in modern films and literature, appearing on many flags, coats of arms and as mascots for sporting teams. The Tiger is the national animal of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and South Korea. The Middle English tigre and Old English tigras derive from Old French tigre, from Latin tigris. This was a borrowing of Classical Greek “tigris“, a foreign borrowing of unknown origin meaning “tiger” and the river Tigris. The origin may have been the Persian word tigra meaning “pointed or sharp“, and the Avestan word tigrhi “arrow“, perhaps referring to the speed of the tiger’s leap, although these words are not known to have any meanings associated with tigers.
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