It’s Year of the Tiger 2022, when celebrations are held throughout Asia and across the wider world. This zodiac cycle occurs once every 60 years, and signifies power and courage.
Those traits apply to actual tigers, too, even though tigers are endangered. There are just 3900 currently living in the wild. (Their habitat includes rainforests, swamplands, grasslands, and even rocky terrain, and spans South Asia and Siberia.)
Here’s what you need to know about these animals as their totem ascends for the Lunar New Year... and how you can save the tiger.
Tigers are huge right now.
Like, literally. Tigers are the largest of all “big cats,” an animal category that also includes lions, cheetahs, pumas, cougars, and leopards. (Sorry, the chonky tabby that your friend named “Pillsbury” doesn’t make the cut here…) Tigers weigh an average of 400 lbs and range from 6 to 10 feet across, which means when they stand on their hind legs, they’ll reach the very top of a standard lamppost. Their paw span is about half a foot wide, and their tales alone are nearly four feet long.
Tiger stripes are like ID badges.
Each tiger’s stripe pattern is different, and unlike many other animals, if you shave off a tiger’s fur, its stripes will remain in the same pattern on their skin. (Pro tip: Do not try to shave a tiger. Ever.)
Tigers love the nightlife.
In part because of their massive size, tigers prefer to hunt under the cover of darkness so they can’t be seen. Tigers rely on their amazing night vision and sense of hearing, rather than smell, to track prey, which can include anything from deer and antelope to water buffalo, fish, and even crocodiles. And when it’s time to call it a night, tigers sleep 18 to 20 hours a day, which sounds really nice…
Tigers don’t love group projects.
Tigers are solitary beings, and aside from the moments when they mate and breed, they typically live alone, with the nearest tiger being as close as 20 miles away (like in India’s tiger habitats) or as far as 1540 square miles away (in Manchuria). Baby tigers, called cubs, do live with their mothers and siblings for about two years, but then break away to live (and hunt) independently.
Tigers just want to talk.
They may live alone, but tigers are very vocal, and their roars can be heard up to 2 miles away. (They have a similar decibel reach as the modern ambulance.) Scientists believe that most roars are signals for other tigers, and serve as a GPS system for their neighbors to mark territory, warn of danger, and begin mating season.
Tigers are endangered, and we can help.Tigers are incredible creatures, but because of animal poaching and deforestation, they need us to help restore their habitats and strengthen the biodiversity of their ecosystems. Here’s how, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society:
• Swap your toilet paper. Really. Paper mills are a leading cause of South Asian deforestation, which puts tigers in danger and shrinks their habitat. Buying toilet paper made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste ensures you’re not adding to the strain on a tiger’s resources. It’s just as sanitary and bouncy as regular toilet paper, we swear. Our favorite is from Who Gives a Crap, but you can also buy recycled toilet paper at Target like any other kind.
• Go ahead and get the fancy chocolate. Lots of drugstore candy uses mass-produced palm oil, which is farmed through deforestation, harvested with pesticides, and often located on former tiger habitats. Independent chocolate brands like Kanda and Grocer’s Daughter work with sustainably harvested ingredients and ethical labor, and taste so good.
• Stop visiting tigers in shady private “zoos,” including those that call themselves “tiger sanctuaries.” Right now, there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. Many live in small cages without adequate space or care, instead of the 20+ miles they’re meant to roam. And let’s be real: friends don’t let friends pose with sedated tigers on Tinder!
Instead, support accredited zoos that actively help animal conservation efforts (like the San Diego zoo, which even has a Tiger Cam that livestreams their big cats on the prowl).