Over much of the tiger's broad geographic range, wild pig, wild
cattle and several species of deer are its major prey. All prey
are forest or grassland ungulates that range in size from 65 to
2,000 pounds (30-900 kg). Typically, wild tigers gorge themselves
on fresh kills, and can eat as much as 40 pounds (18 kg) of meat
at one time. The tiger will not eat again for several days.
:At the beginning of this century it is estimated
that there were 100,000 wild tigers, today the number is less
than 8,000. Simply put, tigers are disappearing in the wild. Tiger
habitat loss and population fragmentation are the
main threats to tigers.
Conservation & Ecology:
Across all of Asia, once vast
forests have fallen for timber or conversion to agriculture. Only
small islands of forest surrounded by a growing and relatively
poor human population are left. As forest space is reduced, the
number of animals left in the forest is also reduced, and tigers
cannot find the prey they need to survive. As a result, tigers
begin to eat the livestock of villagers who live near them. Sometimes
tigers even attack humans. People sometimes kill the tigers in
order to protect themselves and their livestock. As human populations
move farther into the forest, groups of tigers become separated
from each other by villages and farms. This means that tigers
in one area can no longer mate with tigers in nearby areas. Instead,
tigers must breed repeatedly with the same small group of animals.
Over time, this inbreeding weakens the gene pool, and tigers are
born with birth defects and mutations.
Even though it is illegal to kill a tiger, wild tigers are still
their bones, whiskers and other body parts can be sold on the
black market for a lot of money. Tiger parts are used in traditional
Chinese medicine because some people believe that tiger parts
have special powers. Forestry and wildlife departments are too
understaffed and under budgeted to be effective against the onslaught
of poachers. While the exact number of tigers being poached is
unknown, some sources have estimated that one tiger a day is being
killed in India.