Can tigers live in the cold?

Yes, is the answer. The Amur tiger a.k.a. the Siberian tiger lives in Russia’s far eastern region. Although they were much more widespread in days gone by, there’s been a bounce back in population numbers thanks to President Putin championing its conservation in approving tougher punishments in 2013 for the poaching, illegal trade, transportation or storage of Siberian tigers. He also champions the conservation of Amur leopards.

Amur tiger
Amur tiger. Photo: Pixabay.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It is now reported by Marc Bennetts, The Times journalist based in Moscow, that footprints of a rare Amur tiger have been discovered for the first time in 50 years in Russia’s largest and coldest region. That region is southern Yakutia, Russia’s vast ice kingdom which is hundreds of miles from the Siberian tiger’s usual habitat.

Temperatures in that ice kingdom, which is also known as the Republic of Sakha, can drop as low as -55°C in the winter. The answer to the question in the title is clearly a very positive yes. To envisage a tiger living in -55°C temperatures is astonishing seeing as the Bengal tiger which primarily lives in India enjoys temperatures up to 40°C, a temperature difference of 95°C.

This shows the adaptability of the tiger. There also Bengal tigers in Bhutan, 4,000 feet above sea level. You probably know that the Siberian tiger is the world’s largest cat. You might also know that in the evolution of the tiger it was made bigger in colder climates in order to better withstand those cold temperatures. It’s a known fact that when temperatures are colder animals are larger because they have a smaller surface area compared to their body mass in comparison to smaller animals. This reduces heat loss over their surface.

The smallest tiger is the Sumatran tiger which lives on the island of Sumatra in very small numbers because they are persecuted or being squeezed off the island by human activity. In contrast, one of the great advantages of the Siberian tiger living in an ice kingdom is that it is deserted of people or almost.

One major threat to their survival at one time was hunting by people but Russia belatedly woke up to that conservation problem which caused their numbers to drop to fewer than 50 in the 1940s in the wild. There are an estimated 600 today. But tiger counts are problematic.

At one time Siberian tiger was found throughout Russia’s Far East region, northern China and the Korean peninsula. Another threat to their survival is logging i.e. deforestation. Deforestation is a massive threat to conservation of all those wild cat species who live in the forests of the world.

You may remember that in Cop26 there was an agreement to curb deforestation by the world’s nations. They agreed to end deforestation by 2030. Personally, I would like to see nations walk the walk rather than simply talking about it. We will have to see whether they follow through on their promises.

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