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Tigers are the largest of the great cats. Their numbers have dwindled in the wild to 3200 according to the World Wildlife Federation. Scientists have divided these magnificent beasts into nine subspecies, of which, three are extinct. The other six comprise of the Siberian, Bengal, Sumatran, South China, Malayan, and Indo-Chinese. Several subspecies are critically endangered.
Rarest of All
The rarest subspecies of tiger, the South-China, is extinct in the wild. As of 2013 50 South-China tigers live in Chinese zoos and none have been sighted in the wild in the past 10 years. The smallest of the tigers, the South-China tigers weigh between 250 and 330 pounds. They measure 7 to 8 feet long. Scientists believe that these tigers may be from ancient "stem" lines, meaning that these cats may be the ancestors or very close to the ancestors of the modern day tiger. Poachers killed these tigers for bones and body parts to make traditional Chinese medicine. These tigers have not been able to survive in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss.
Color variation can lead to some rare tigers. Colors other than orange, such as white, are extremely rare. Only 12 white tigers have been seen in the wild in the past 100 years. White tigers are variants of Bengal tigers which carry a rare recessive gene that causes their coats to be white. These tigers are not albinos. Bengal tigers number less than 2000 in the wild. Bengal tigers live in India, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh. They share the title of the largest tiger with the Siberian tiger. Bengals weigh between 400 to 500 pounds.
The rarest of the colors might just be the Maltese Tiger. If these tigers still exist, their coats are slate gray with dark gray or black stripes and have a bluish cast. Currently there are no blue tigers in zoos. One blue tiger was born in an Oklahoma zoo in the 1960s. The zoo has preserved the body. It's believed that Maltese Tigers may have been mutated South-China tigers or Siberian tigers. If the color is only in South-China tigers, then the Maltese Tiger might be extinct.
Other Rare Tigers
All tigers are rare, relatively speaking. Even so, the Sumatran Tiger and the Siberian Tiger are very rare since scientists estimate their numbers in the wild to be between 400 and 500. The Sumatran Tiger shares the title of the smallest tiger with the South-China tiger. The Sumatran Tiger has an upper weight range of 330 pounds for males. The Siberian Tiger is the largest tiger at the top range of 660 pounds for males.
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Great Cats
- WWF: Tigers
- Defenders of Wildlife: Fact Sheet Tiger
- Panthera: Tiger Subspecies
- Paws for Wildlife: Maltese Tiger
- Messy Beast:Mutant Big Cats - Blue Tigers
- Indian Tiger: Endangered White Tiger
- Indian Tiger: White Bengal Tiger
- Tigers of the World: South-China Tiger Facts
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Panthera Tigris Ssp. Amoyensis
- Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images