The tiger, Panthera tigris, is the largest member of the family Felidae and the largest cat in the world. A solitary cat, the tiger is also an ambush predator and uses the distinctive stripes of its fur as “disruptive camouflage” to hide in plain sight.
The tiger’s historically expansive range—once spanning from Turkey to the eastern coast of Asia in Russia and China—has been dramatically reduced and now covers less than 6% of its original area, with a 42% decline since 2006. Breeding populations of tigers are currently found in eight states across it’s present range: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, and Thailand. There is some evidence of breeding populations in China and Burma (Myanmar) from 2009 to 2014 though they are not considered “stable”, relying on immigration from surrounding states.
Tigers are an incredibly adaptable and versatile species with ranges in a wide array of different ecosystems, from tropical forests and jungles of Asia to the taiga of eastern Russia. One sub-species, Panthera tigris altaica, commonly known as the Siberian Tiger, persists in the Russian Far East. Tigers have also been observed in higher elevations, as high as 14,700 feet in Bhutan.
Prey consists mainly of medium-sized ungulates, but these large cats are opportunistic predators and will predate on small animals such as birds, fish, rodents, insects, amphibians, and reptiles as well as other mammals such as primates and porcupines. Tigers also take prey much larger than themselves, including large bovids, elephants, and rhinos.
The Tiger’s distinctive coloration and stripe pattern is a key tool in monitoring population numbers. The pattern of each tiger’s stripes is an individualized characteristic approximate to a human being’s finger prints.
The Conservators Center is currently home to three tigers, two of which were born at the Center after a USDA placement of 11 lions and tigers seized from poor living conditions in 2004. Of the animals who arrived at the Center in 2004, the one female tiger was pregnant and gave birth to four cubs. The Center's fourth tiger, Axl, lives at the Greensboro Science Center in Greensboro, NC on an education loan.
The Conservators Center does not breed, nor has it bred any large cats. These species are well represented in captivity and as such they do not meet the requirements for our conservation breeding program.
Arthur, a white tiger with few stripes, is an assertive, playful boy who never really grew up. His blue-green eyes somehow contain both a childlike wonder and a soft intelligence. His best friend in the world is Kira Lioness, and he lets her run the show. Arthur is famous, and he acts like he knows it. He once ran for president. He has his own Facebook profile, and shares storybook fame with Kira (children’s book available from the Center’s gift shop). He is thrilled when visitors arrive on weekend mornings for special tours where he earns treats for showing off his beautiful feet and belly.
“Her Royal Highness” Freya has quite the dedicated fanclub among Conservators Center visitors. With her regal carriage, independent nature, and petite, feminine figure, it’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful girl. She doesn’t always pay attention to even her favorite people...but once those gorgeous, intense eyes fall on you, fixing you with a “don’t mess with me” stare, you have to feel honored. Freya is Wic Tiger’s sister, and she spent her early years living with him in the Mixed Pride. She decided she wanted her own space after getting in trouble for games like bouncing through sunbathing piles of lions after swimming in a cool pool. We were happy to oblige. Nowadays she spends her time enthusiastically stalking Arthur Tiger next door in her favorite game ever--pounce!
Wic lives in the Mixed Pride with Calvin, Savik, and Katrina Lions. In particular, Wic and Calvin Lion are buddies, though Wic often takes on the role of a “pesky little brother” and tries very hard to get a reaction out of Calvin. During a Tree Toss event one January afternoon, Calvin was reclining and basking in the attention from the visitors. Wic apparently wanted in on the action, as he ambled up and plopped down facing Calvin, starting a game of “I’m not touching you” by waving one of his huge front paws near the lion’s face. When Calvin stoically—and repeatedly—ignored him, Wic reached over and gently thumped patient Calvin on the top of the head! Calvin protested and Wic scooted away, but later the two cuddled up together, totally at peace.