Former and Current Tiger Subspecies Habitat Map

This ecoregion map shows the historical and current habitat of the subspecies of the Panthera tigris commonly known as tiger. Light colors represent the Former Habitat and dark colors represent the Current Habitat. Hover over the map to get detailed information from the tiger that has lived in a specific region.
Two Tigers (Panthera tigris) resting

Inspiration


As most of humanity, I found myself staying home during the Coronavirus quarantine and watching more tv than expected. I am an avid Netflix user, but I rarely watch documentaries. At some point everyone was talking about the Tiger King, and I decided to watch and see what the fuss was all about. I definitely enjoyed the series, but I absolutely wanted to know more about captive exotic animals and specifically about tigers.

Looking more into tigers, I found that according to WWF there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild. Panthera tigris, the tiger species as a whole, is listed with a status of Endangered. Furthermore, I was surprised to find out tigers kept in captivity, are a mixture of Asian tiger Subspecies. Among them, some subspecies are endangered and some are already extinct (see map above).

I found information on tigers is plentiful, but it is scattered and the maps lack information on the type of habitat tigers live in. This World Wildlife article mentions the type habitats they live in but the information is brief and not shown on a map. The tiger is an ambush hunter. Its stripes act as camouflage in the long grass or wooded forests. They are seldom far from a water source; there are Bengal tigers that live in wet mangrove forests along the Ganges River in India. As depicted in the ecoregions map above, the six subspecies live in a wide variety of habitats: flooded mangrove forests, arid forests, tropical forests, and taiga.

There is no doubt that the greatest threat they face is their need for large contiguous areas of habitat, which support its requirements for prey and rearing of its offspring. This habitat loss is mainly due to habitat degradation for agriculture. Climate change is also causing ocean levels to rise, reducing coastal habitats occupied by tigers.

The Amur or Siberian tiger Panthera tigris altaica is the largest subspecies, it is also the most pale and with least stripes, to help it blend in the snow. Because it lives in a colder climate it has the thickest coat. The Bengal or Indian tiger Panthera tigris tigris is almost as large as the Siberian tiger. It is the most common subspecies of tiger.

The Indochinese tiger Panthera tigris corbetti is about 20 percent smaller and darker than the Bengal tigers. The Sumatran tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae is the smallest subspecies. Even though the tiger is one of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals, and those born in the "Year of the Tiger" are thought to be brave, competitive and self-confident, the Chinese government ordered in the 1950s, that the South China tiger Panthera tigris amoyensis be destroyed because they were viewed as pests. Today, it is believed that the South China tiger is most likely extinct in the wild. Source: San Diego Zoo

Resources


I found detailed facts on tiger subspecies and a map of their former and current ranges in an article on Genome-Wide Evolutionary Analysis of Natural History and Adaptation in the World’s Tigers. Since the reason a species occupy a certain area is because of their physical characteristics, I decided I could incorporate this information to a biome or ecoregion map. I matched their approximate locations with a world ecoregions map. The shapefiles to create the map with the ecoregions of the world were obtained from WWF.

Data on tiger population subspecies number and status was gathered from San Diego Zoo Global Library and their fact sheet on tiger population: http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/tiger/population.

Dive in. There are so many areas with different characteristics, it is amazing to see how tigers managed to live in all of them at some point!

Interested in wildlife and habitat maps? Look at this interactive map about Sloth habitat.

Made by Luz K. Molina with D3.js.

Map of historical and current habitats of tigers in Asia