A wonderfully deep and intense photographic portrait showing fine detail of the unmistakable face of a tiger. The tiger (Panthera tigris) is a member of the cat family and is native to much of eastern and southern Asia. Reaching up to 4 metres in length and weighing up to 300 kilograms, they have great bulk and power. They also have powerfully built legs and shoulders, with the result that they have the ability to pull down prey substantially heavier than themselves. The tigers most recognizable feature is the pattern of dark vertical stripes that overlays near-white to reddish-orange fur. The stripes act as camouflage, serving to help tigers conceal themselves amongst the shadows and long grass of their environment as they stalk their prey. The stripe pattern is found on a tiger's skin and the distinctive camouflage pattern would be preserved if shaved. Highly adaptable, tigers range from the Siberian taiga, to open grasslands, to tropical mangrove swamps. They are territorial and generally solitary animals, often requiring large areas of habitat that support their prey demands. The earliest fossils of true tigers are known from Java, and are between 1.6 and 1.8 million years old. Tigers usually hunt at night. They generally hunt alone and ambush their prey as most other cats do, overpowering them from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock large prey off balance. Even with their great masses, tigers can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, although only in short bursts. Tigers have great leaping ability with horizontal leaps of up to 10 metres being reported. However, only one in twenty hunts ends in a successful kill. Poaching for fur and destruction of habitat have greatly reduced tiger populations in the wild. At the start of the 20th century, it is estimated there were over 100,000 tigers in the world but the population has worryingly dwindled to about 2,000 in the wild. The threat of extinction is mitigated somewhat by the presence of some 20,000 tigers currently in captivity. Incredibly, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums estimates that up to 12,000 tigers are being kept as private pets in the USA, significantly more than the world's entire wild population. 4,000 are believed to be in captivity in Texas alone. Some famous tiger characters you may know are Shere Khan from The Jungle Book, Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh and Tony from the Frosties cereal advertisments. Photography by Tim Wallace. Please note print sizes will vary from quoted dimensions due to the image ratio.
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