Panthera tigris altaica
Description: Amur tigers are one of the larger tiger sub-species. Average weight for males is 160-190 kg, while females are smaller, at 110-130 kg. Males, females and cubs can be distinguished by their tracks: a male’s paw pad measures 10.5 – 14.5 cm across, a female’s 8.5 – 9.5. cm, and a cub’s – from 5.5 – 10 cm. (Male cubs, after one year, usually have paw measurements already larger than their mothers’).
Amur tiger coat colour is a lighter orange than other tiger sub-species and becomes even more so in winter. Their coat is longer and thicker than other sub-species because of the colder climate and they have a thick mane around the neck and extra fur on their paws, which protects them against the cold.
Breeding: Sexual maturity is reached around 4 years, but varies with gender and is earlier in zoo tigers. When a female is ready to mate she will signal by leaving scratch marks and urine deposits to attract males. Gestation last 3 to 3 1/2 months, litter size is 1-6 though 2-4 are the most common.
Longevity: In the wild they can live between 10-15 years, but in captivity they live nearer to 20 years old.
Other Subspecies: To find out about other tiger subspecies, please visit our sister organisation 21st Century Tiger.
Prey: The Amur tiger needs large prey to survive, and its main prey species are ungulates – wild boar, sika deer and red deer. In the summer tigers may prey on smaller animals such as badgers and raccoon dogs. Bears comprise about 3% of the tiger’s diet in the Russian Far East. There are rare cases on record of adult brown bears being killed and eaten by Amur tigers. Brown bear cubs are killed more often (indicating that male tigers can drive away the defending mother bear) and the smaller Himalayan black bear also appears on the Amur tiger’s menu.
Hunting Habits: Research by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) together with Russian scientists has shown that a female Amur tiger has a home range of up to 20 x 20 kilometres, and some males patrol an area as large as 40 x 40 kilometres. These large home ranges are due to naturally low prey densities in the temperate climate found in the Russian Far East. The home range of a male in his prime can include that of several females. As a result of these extensive territories it is clear that a very large area, about the size of Italy, is needed to support a viable population consisting of several hundred animals.
Habitat:Key habitats for the Amur tiger are forests which have a complex composition and structure, resulting in a mosaic of forest types that vary with elevation, topography and history as this allows for a variety of ungulate prey.
Location: The Amur leopard shares its last remaining habitat in Southwest Primorye in the Russian Far East and Northeast China with a subpopulation of approximately 10 Amur tigers. The main population of Amur tigers can be found to the Northeast in the Sikhote Alin mountain range. In 2005 a full-range count in Russia organized by WCS in collaboration with WWF and all responsible government entities estimated the Amur tiger population in Russia at between 428 and 502 individuals (up from 415 to 476 during the previous count in 1996).
Thanks to this relatively favourable situation, the Amur tiger made a unique and remarkable come-back at a time when numbers in all other parts of the tiger’s wide range in Asia were declining dramatically. In the early nineties a poaching epidemic broke out when the Soviet Union collapsed and the borders with neighbouring Asian countries, where tiger body parts are widely used in medicines, opened up. It was estimated that as many as 70 tigers were poached annually in the early 1990s, and at that point ALTA partners and WWF both developed anti-poaching projects that helped to reduce poaching and prevented a collapse of the population.
The Amur tiger’s range once included former Manchuria in China and the Korean peninsula. The Amur tiger has since become extinct in South Korea, and while its status in North Korea is unknown, it is unlikely that more than a few, if any, animals remain. In China, the Amur tiger is dependent on the small source population in the Amur leopard’s range across the border in SW Primorye in Russia. With support from WCS and WWF, in 2001 China established the Hunchun Tiger Leopard Reserve along the border. Large tracts of suitable forest habitat remain in NE China, and with improved forest management and anti-poaching we can expect the Amur tiger and leopard to make a comeback there. There are already indications that tiger and leopard populations in NE China have started to recover.
The small wild population of Amur tigers has led to them being classed as endangered and this is mainly the result of human activities.
The main threats to the Amur tiger’s survival are:
ALTA is working hard to reduce these threats by funding appropriate conservation projects and educating and informing people about the importance of the Amur leopard and tiger.
Fortunately the Amur tiger gained protection and started to recover in numbers due to intensive conservation efforts. Although the population in Russia has remained relatively stable at between 400 and 500 individuals over the past two decades, Amur tigers are still classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and their future is still by no means secure. The work that has brought them back from the brink of extinction must continue to ensure they do not find themselves in the same situation again.
Zoo Support: There are over 600 Amur tigers currently living in captivity according to the International Tiger Studbook. Most of those are in Europe and North America and the vast majority are part of conservation breeding programmes; the EEP in Europe and Russian region, and SSP in North America.
Amur Tiger Conservation Activities
Read full details on the projects we are funding in 2013 here.
Conservation activities for both Amur tiger and leopard which ALTA support include:
- Population monitoring
- Education and outreach
- Anti-poaching and compensation of livestock
- Ecological and biomedical research