Wildlife Travel: Tigers
Siberian tigers are the largest of all the tiger species. They can weigh up to 700 pounds and grow to a length of up to 13 feet. Sadly, it is estimated that there are less than 500 Siberian tigers remaining in the wild. Most of these live in the Southeast corner of Russia in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range.
The Siberian tiger – or the Amur tiger, as it is sometimes called due to its habitat proximity to the Amur River, is listed as an endangered species. The largest threats to these beautiful animals are habitat loss and poaching.
The Siberian tiger is poached for both its fur and its various body parts, including its bones. The carcass is then used in traditional Chinese medicines. Thankfully the State Council of the People's Republic of China outlawed this practice in 1993. And yet poaching continues due to the significant profit involved ($50K for one tiger) and the insufficient penalties poachers receive if caught.
Siberian Tiger Tours
As a result, experiencing Siberian tigers in the wild is virtually impossible – unless one is willing to go trekking in the backcountry of Russia in search of these illusive animals.
Elite Land Tours, based in Palm Springs, California offers one of the few opportunities to see Siberian Tigers up close and personal – though not in their native habitat. This 6 hour wildlife tour takes its guests through its 80-acre reserve in a Hummer H2 which is often pounced on by its Asian Leopards upon arrival. This is a great option for those who enjoy photographing wild animals with a stunningly backdrop.
The reality is that most of us will have to head to our local zoo to gain access to Siberian Tigers. According to the 1194 International Tiger Studbook there are about 151 tigers in North American zoos and about 226 in European zoos.
The next largest of the tiger species, and cousin to the Siberian tiger, is the Bengal tiger which can weigh up to 500 pounds and grow as long as 10 feet. They reside primarily in the mangrove forests of eastern India and Bangladesh. The Bengal tiger is also listed as endangered and it is estimated that there are only about 3,000 free tigers remaining in India.
Bengal tigers, like all big cats, are carnivores eating as much as 65 pounds of meat a night. As a result, they require a large territory in which to hunt animals like deer, water buffalo, wild pigs and even small mammals and birds.
Unlike Siberian tigers, there are enough free Bengal tigers that it is possible to experience them in their natural habitat. Below is one agency that provides wildlife tour packages to see Bengal tigers. Note however, that they describe the Bengal tiger as “elusive”.
Different Travel, specializes in combining humanitarian and volunteer opportunities with two and three week travel experiences in developing areas of the world. Their Discover Nepal 14 day costs $2,295.
For more choices see Gordon’s Guide and search for Bengal tigers.