Global Tiger Day, often called International Tiger Day, is held annually on July 29 to educate the public and raise awareness concerning tiger conservation,It was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest cat species, most recognizable for their pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside. The species is classified in the genus Panthera with the lion, leopard, jaguar, and snow leopard. Tigers are apex predators, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and bovids. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans.
Tigers once ranged widely across eastern Eurasia, from the Black Sea in the west, to the Indian Ocean in the south, and from Kolyma to Sumatra in the east. Over the past 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range, and have been extirpated from Western and Central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast, Southern, and Eastern Asia. Today, they range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. The remaining six tiger subspecies have been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The global population in the wild is estimated to number between 3,062 and 3,948 individuals, down from around 100,000 at the start of the 20th century, with most remaining populations occurring in small pockets isolated from each other, of which about 2,000 exist on the Indian subcontinent. A 2016 global census estimated the population of wild tigers at approximately 3,890 individuals . Major reasons for population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and poaching. The extent of area occupied by tigers is estimated at less than 1,184,911 km2 (457,497 sq mi), a 41% decline from the area estimated in the mid-1990s. In 2016, wildlife conservation group at WWF declared that world’s count of wild tigers has risen for the first time in a century.
The tiger’s closest living relatives were previously thought to be the lion, leopard and jaguar, all of which are classified under the genus Panthera. Genetic analysis indicates that the tiger and the snow leopard diverged from the other Panthera species about 2.88 million years ago, and that both species may be more closely related to each other than to the lion, leopard and jaguar. The oldest remains of an extinct tiger relative, called Panthera zdanskyi or the Longdan tiger, have been found in the Gansu province of northwestern China. This species is considered to be a sister taxon to the extant tiger and lived about 2 million years ago, at the beginning of the Pleistocene. It was smaller than the modern tiger, being the size of a jaguar, and probably did not have the same coat pattern. Despite being considered more “primitive”, the Longdan tiger was functionally and possibly ecologically similar to its modern cousin. As Panthera zdanskyi lived in northwestern China, that may have been where the tiger lineage originated. Tigers grew in size, possibly in response to adaptive radiations of prey species like deer and bovids which may have occurred in Southeast Asia during the early Pleistocene.
The earliest fossils of true tigers are from Java, and are between 1.6 and 1.8 million years old. Distinct fossils are known from the early and middle Pleistocene deposits in China and Sumatra. A subspecies called the Trinil tiger (Panthera tigris trinilensis) lived about 1.2 million years ago and is known from fossils found at Trinil in Java. Tigers first reached India and northern Asia in the late Pleistocene, reaching eastern Beringia (but not the American Continent), Japan, and Sakhalin. As evidenced by Sandra Herrington, some fossil skulls that are morphologically distinct from lion skulls could indicate however that tigers might have been present in Alaska within the last 100,000 years during the last glaciation. Fossils found in Japan indicate the local tigers were, like the surviving island subspecies, smaller than the mainland forms, an example of insular dwarfism. Until the Holocene, tigers also lived in Borneo, as well as on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. As of the Middle Ages, Caspian tigers were noted to range in the Pontic-Caspian steppes of Ukraine and southern Russia.
The tiger’s full genome sequence was published in 2013. It and other cat genomes were found to have similar repeat compositions. There are 11 recognised tiger subspecies. Two, the Trinil and Japanese tigers, became extinct in prehistoric times. The remaining subspecies all survived at least into the mid-20th century; three of these are also considered extinct. Their core historical range in South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), Eastern Asia (China, Mongolia, North Korea, Siberia, South Korea) and South East Asia, including three Indonesian islands, is severely constricted today, and the populations in the Black Sea (Iran, Georgia, Southern Russia, Turkey) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) are now extinct.
Tigers are among the most recognisable and popular of the world’s charismatic megafauna. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern films and literature. They appear on many flags, coats of arms, and as mascots for sporting teams. The tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and South Korea.