The Malayan tiger is a cute but dangerous animal, the smallest of all tiger species. Until 2004, such a subspecies did not exist at all. They belonged to the Indochinese tiger. However, in the course of numerous genetic studies, a separate subspecies was isolated. As you can guess from the name, it can only be found in Malaysia.
Origin of the species and description
The habitat of the Malayan tiger is — the peninsular part of Malaysia (Kuala Terengganu, Pahang, Perak and Kelantan) and the southern regions of Thailand. To a greater extent, tigers are an Asian species. Back in 2003, this subspecies was ranked among the Indochinese tiger. But in 2004, the population was assigned to a separate subspecies – Panthera tigris jacksoni.
Prior to this, a group of American scientists from the National Cancer Institute conducted multiple genetic studies and examinations, during which, using DNA analyzes, differences in the genome of the subspecies were revealed, allowing it to be considered a separate species.
Video: Malayan tiger
Populations in northern Malaysia are interspersed with southern Thailand. In small forests and abandoned agricultural areas, animals are found in groups, provided there is a small amount of population and away from major roads. In Singapore, the last Malayan tigers were exterminated back in the 1950s.
According to the latest estimates, no more than 500 individuals of this species remain in the wild. This raises it to the third step in abundance among all subspecies. The color of the Malayan tiger is most similar to the Indochinese, and closer in size to the Sumatran.
Interesting fact: Some myths say that the saber-toothed tiger was the forefather of all types of these predators. However, it is not. As a member of the cat family, this species is considered more of a saber-toothed cat than a tiger.
Appearance and Features
Compared to relatives, the Malayan tiger is small:
- Males reach 237 cm in length (including tail);
- Weight of males – within 120 kg;
- Females weigh no more than 100 kg;
- The height at the withers fluctuates around 60 -100 cm
Females – 203 cm;
The body of the Malayan tiger is flexible and graceful, the tail is quite long. Massive heavy head with a large facial skull. Under the rounded ears are fluffy sideburns. Large eyes with round pupils see everything in color. Well developed night vision. Vibrissae are white, elastic, arranged in 4-5 rows.
In the mouth they have 30 powerful teeth, fangs are the longest in the family. They contribute to a strong grip on the neck of the victim, which allows you to choke him until he stops showing signs of life. The fangs are large and curved, sometimes the length of the upper teeth reaches 90 mm.
Interesting fact: Thanks to a long and movable tongue with sharp tubercles completely covered with hardened epithelium, the Malayan tiger easily rips off the skin from the body of the victim, and the meat from its bones.
On strong and wide front legs there are five fingers, on the back – 4 with fully retractable claws. On the paws and back, the hair is thick and short, on the belly it is longer and fluffy. The body is orange-orange in color, crossed by dark transverse stripes. There are white spots around the eyes, on the cheeks and near the nose. The belly and chin are also white.
Most tigers have over 100 stripes on their bodies. On average, there are 10 transverse stripes on the tail. But meet and with 8-11. The base of the tail is usually not surrounded by solid rings. The tip of the tail is always black. The main task of the bands is camouflage when hunting. Thanks to them, the tiger can hide in the thickets for a long time without being noticed.
Interesting fact: Each animal has its own unique set of stripes, so they can be distinguished from each other. The skin of tigers is also striped. If the animals are cut, dark fur will grow on the dark stripes, the pattern will be restored and become identical to the original.
Where does the Malayan tiger live?
Malayan tigers prefer mountainous hilly terrain and live in forests, often located on the borders between countries. They are well oriented in the impenetrable thickets of the jungle and easily cope with water obstacles. They can jump up to 10 meters. They climb trees well, but do it in extreme cases.
They equip their dwellings:
- in rock crevices;
- under trees;
- in small caves they line the ground with dry grass and leaves.
People are shunned. They can settle in fields with moderate vegetation. Each tiger has its own territory. These are quite vast areas, which sometimes reach up to 100 km². The territories of females may overlap with those of males.
Such large numbers are explained by the small amount of prey in these places. The potential habitat for wild cats is 66,211 km², while the actual habitat is 37,674 km². Now animals live on an area not exceeding 11655 km². Thanks to the expansion of protected areas, the actual area is planned to increase to 16882 km².
These animals have a high ability to adapt to any environment: whether it be humid tropics, rocky cliffs, savannahs, bamboo groves or impenetrable jungle thickets. Tigers feel equally comfortable in hot climates and in the snowy taiga.
Interesting fact: The Malayan tiger has been given cultural significance, since its image is on the country's coat of arms. In addition, it is the national symbol and logo of Maybank, a Malaysian bank, and army units.
What does the Malayan tiger eat?
The main diet consists of artiodactyls and herbivores. Malayan tigers feed on deer, wild boars, sambars, gaurs, langurs, hunt muntjacs, serows, long-tailed macaques, porcupines, wild bulls and red deer. Do not shy away and fall. As you can see, these animals are not whimsical in food.
Occasionally they chase hares, pheasants, small birds, mice, voles. Especially brave ones can attack the Malay bear. On a particularly hot day, do not mind hunting for fish and frogs. Often attack small elephants and pets. In summer, they can eat nuts or fruits of trees.
Thanks to a thick fat layer, tigers can go without food for a long time without causing damage to their health. In one sitting, wild cats can eat up to 30 kg of meat, and very hungry – and all 40 kg. Predators do not suffer from a lack of appetite.
In captivity, the diet of tigers is 5-6 kg of meat 6 days a week. When hunting, they use sight and hearing more than they rely on scent. It can take up to 10 attempts to successfully hunt. If none of them succeed, or if the prey is stronger, the tiger no longer pursues it. They eat lying down, holding food with their paws.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Possessing great strength , tigers feel like full-fledged owners of the area they occupy. They mark the territory with urine everywhere, mark the boundaries of their possessions, peeling bark from trees with their claws and loosening the ground. In this way, they protect their lands from other males.
Tigers that get along in the same possessions are friendly to each other, coexist peacefully and, when they meet, touch each other with their faces, rub their sides. As a sign of greeting, they snort and purr loudly, while exhaling noisily.
Wild cats hunt at any time of the day. If appetizing prey has turned up, the tiger will not miss it. Knowing how to swim well, they successfully hunt fish, turtles or medium-sized crocodiles. With a heavy paw, they make a lightning strike on the water, stunning the prey and eating it with pleasure.
Although Malayan tigers tend to be solitary, they sometimes gather in groups to share especially large prey. If the attack on a large animal is successful, the tigers emit a loud roar that can be heard very far away.
Animals communicate using sound, smell and visual communication. If necessary, they can climb trees and jump up to 10 meters in length. In hot weather, tigers like to spend a lot of time in the water, escaping from the heat and annoying flies.
Interesting fact: The vision of the Malayan tiger is 6 times sharper than that of a human. At twilight, hunters are second to none.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Although tiger breeding occurs throughout the year, the peak of this period falls on December-January. Females mature for mating at 3-4 years, while males – only at 5. Usually males choose 1 female for courtship. In conditions of increased density of male tigers, battles often take place for the chosen ones.
When females are in heat, they mark their territory with urine. Since this can happen once every few years, there are bloody fights for tigresses. At first, she does not let the males near her, hissing at them, growling and fighting off with her paws. When the tigress allows her to approach her, they mate many times over several days.
During estrus, females can mate with several males. In this case, the litter will have babies from different fathers. Males may also mate with multiple tigresses. After giving birth, the female zealously protects her offspring from males, because they can kill the kittens so that she starts estrus again.
On average, the gestation of offspring lasts around 103 days. There can be from 1 to 6 babies in a litter, but on average 2-3. Children up to six months are fed with mother's milk, and about 11 months they begin to hunt on their own. But until they are 2-3 years old, they will still live with their mother.
Malayan tigers' natural enemies
Thanks to a powerful constitution and a huge strength, adult tigers have practically no enemies. These animals are at the top of the food pyramid among other animals. Well-developed intuition helps them quickly assess the situation and act according to their instincts.
The main persecutors of the Malayan tigers are poachers with guns, shamelessly shooting animals for commercial gain. Tigers are wary of elephants, bears and large rhinos, trying to bypass them. Crocodiles, wild boars, jackals, porcupines and wild dogs prey on kittens and young tiger cubs.
As old or crippled animals begin to prey on livestock and even humans, the locals shoot the tigers. In 2001-2003 alone, 42 people were killed by Malayan tigers in the mangrove forests of Bangladesh. People use tiger skins as decoration and souvenirs. Tiger meat is also used.
The bones of Malayan tigers can often be found in black markets in Asia. And in medicine, body parts are used. Asians believe that bones have anti-inflammatory properties. The genitals are considered a powerful aphrodisiac. The main reason for the decline of the species was the sport hunting of these animals in the 30s of the 20th century. This greatly reduced the population of the species.
Population and species status
The approximate number of Malayan tigers living on the planet is 500 individuals, of which about 250 are adults, which makes their species endangered. The main threats are deforestation, poaching, loss of habitual habitat, conflicts with people, competition with domestic animals.
At the end of 2013, environmental organizations set up camera traps in the habitats of big cats. From 2010 to 2013, up to 340 adults were recorded, excluding isolated populations. For a large peninsula, this is a very small figure.
Uncontrolled deforestation for the construction of oil palm plantations, water pollution by industrial effluents become serious problems for the survival of the species and lead to the loss of their habitat. During the life of one generation, the population is reduced by about a quarter.
According to researchers, from 2000 to 2013, at least 94 Malayan tigers were confiscated from poachers. Agricultural development is also detrimental to the tiger population due to habitat fragmentation.
Despite the popularity of tiger body parts in Chinese medicine, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the value of tiger organs or bones. It should be noted that Chinese law prohibits any use of tiger bodies for the purpose of obtaining medicines. The poachers themselves face the death penalty.
Malayan Tiger Conservation
The species is listed in the International Red Book and the CITES Convention. It is considered to be at critical risk. India has developed a special WWF program aimed at the active conservation of the endangered species of tigers.
One of the reasons for the inclusion of Malayan tigers in the Red Book is the number of no more than 50 units of mature individuals in any of the forest areas. The subspecies is listed in a special application, according to which international trade is prohibited. Also, the countries in which these wild cats live cannot trade them within the state.
The Malaysian Alliance for the Protection of the Rare Subspecies was created by non-governmental organizations. There is even a separate hotline that receives information about poachers. Caring citizens organize special patrols to control the shooting of animals, due to which the population increases.
About 108 Malayan tigers are in captivity on the territories of zoos and other organizations. However, this is extremely small for genetic diversity and the absolute preservation of unique animals.
Tigers are well able to adapt to new habitat conditions. There are multiple programs to increase the number of offspring in captivity. Due to this, the prices of predators are reduced and they become less tasty morsels for poachers. Perhaps in the near future the Malayan tiger will cease to be an endangered species, we really hope so.