Distribution and Habitat
In the past, tigers were found throughout Asia, from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Siberia and the Indonesian islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra. During the 20th century, tigers have been extirpated in western Asia and became restricted to isolated pockets in the remaining parts of their range. Today, their fragmented and partly degraded range extends from India in the west to China and Southeast Asia. The northern limit of their range is close to the Amur River in south eastern Siberia. The only large island inhabited by tigers today is Sumatra.
Tigers were extirpated on the island of Bali in the 1940s, around the Caspian Sea in the 1970s, and on Java in the 1980s. Loss of habitat and the persistent killing of tigers and tiger prey precipitated these extirpations, a process that continues to leave forests devoid of tigers and other large mammals across South and Southeast Asia. Since the beginning of the 21st century, their historical range has shrunk by 93%. In the decade from 1997 to 2007, the estimated area known to be occupied by tigers has declined by 41%.
Fossil remains indicate that tigers were present in Borneo and Palawan in the Philippines during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.
Tigers can occupy a wide range of habitat types but will usually require sufficient cover, proximity to water, and an abundance of prey. Bengal tigers live in many types of forests, including wet, evergreen, the semi-evergreen of Assam and eastern Bengal; the swampy mangrove forest of the Ganges Delta; the deciduous forest of Nepal, and the thorn forests of the Western Ghats. In various parts of their range they inhabit or have inhabited additionally partially open grassland and savanna as well as taiga forests and rocky habitats. Compared to the lion, the tiger prefers denser vegetation, for which its camouflage colouring is ideally suited, and where a single predator is not at a disadvantage compared with the multiple felines in a pride. A further habitat requirement is the placement of suitably secluded den locations, which may consist of caves, large hollow trees or dense vegetation.
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