Tiger Lifespan: How Long Do Tigers Live?

Written by Volia Nikaci
Published: February 20, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Ondrej Prosicky
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Tigers are frequently regarded as one of the most ferocious and yet majestic predators in the wild. As apex hunters, we have always been quite fascinated by tigers and what makes them so interesting. Sadly, the tiger‘s habitat has fallen by roughly 95 percent in the previous 150 years. Today, there are only around 3,900 to 5,000 tigers left in the wild.

Are you curious to find out more about tigers and what makes them stand out amongst other large hunters? We’ve got the rundown on how long tigers live and what factors impact their lifespan.

A Quick Crash Course on Tigers

Bengal tiger laying in brush
Adult tigers generally live alone.

dangdumrong/Shutterstock.com

The tiger is the world’s biggest wild cat, distinguished by its reddish-orange coat with black stripes. The tail alone of this huge cat is three feet long. Tigers may grow to be as long as 11 feet long and weigh up to 660 pounds. The Sumatran Tiger, Siberian Tiger, Bengal Tiger, South China Tiger, Malayan Tiger, and Indochinese Tiger are all subspecies of the tiger.

As such a strong and ferocious predator, tigers hunt alone most of the time. They are able to take down animals as large as deer or antelopes. Tigers will wait until dark to begin hunting and will charge at their prey with their teeth and large claws. Interestingly, there have been new studies that found that the reason why tigers have evolved to be orange is that their prey sees them as green. Deer, the primary food of tigers, can only perceive blue and green light, thereby rendering them colorblind to red. As a result, tigers seem green to deer.

In general, adult tigers are solitary creatures and prefer to live alone. Based on the trees around him, a tiger can tell if he is in another tiger’s territory. Each tiger leaves urine and distinctive scratches on the trees in its territory.

How Long Do Tigers Live?

South China tiger on the prowl
Tigers communicate by scent markers, visual cues, and a variety of noises such as roars, growls, and hisses.

Mikhail Leonov/Shutterstock.com

The average lifespan of a tiger in the wild is about 11 years. In captivity, their lifespan is about 20 to 26 years. As can be expected, the lifespan of a tiger is greatly increased when they are privately owned or kept in zoos. This is because they no longer have to worry about hunting for food or being exposed to harsh weather patterns. 

Let’s take a look at some of the oldest known tigers: 

  • Guddu, the world’s longest surviving male Bengal tiger, died in Kanpur Zoo in India at the age of 26.
  • Prior to Guddu, the record was held by Flavio and Ramu tigers, both of which died when they were 24 years old.
  • The Machali tigress, the world’s oldest female tiger, died at the age of 20.

Now that we have a better understanding of the tiger lifespan, let’s take a look at their average life cycle. 

The Average Tiger Life Cycle

How exactly do tiger cubs go from such small and cute animals to the ferocious hunters they become? Let’s take a look at the average tiger life cycle. 

For starters, tigers have four life stages: newborn, kid, young adult, and a fully grown adult.

Newborn tigers

A newborn baby tiger is called a cub. When they are born, cubs weigh on average between two to three pounds. For the first eight weeks of their life, they will be concealed and safeguarded in the cozy cave that their mother built before their birth. They are nursed by their mother for the first few weeks of their life. At around six to eight weeks of life, the mother will begin to introduce meat to the cubs. 

Child

Cubs begin learning to hunt at about six months of age.

iStock.com/Rajkumar Natarajan

When the cub reaches the age of two months, it will be permitted to leave the safety of the den. Over the course of the next few months, they will spend time learning how to hunt independently. This is accomplished by both observing and doing practice hunts. They are normally capable of hunting for themselves by the age of 18 months. Nonetheless, both males and females will remain with their mothers until they are around 2.5 years old. Tigers have a rather high infant mortality rate. Fewer than half of all cubs born survive to the age of two.

Young Adult

Once they reach the age of adolescence, tigers abandon their moms for good. Despite the fact that they are no longer in a relationship, the females pick territory near their mother. Males must go far further to establish a territory.

Adulthood

When a tiger reaches maturity, he or she has established his or her own territory and begins to search for a mate. Adult tigers only spend time together while mating or hunting the same prey.

A female tiger achieves sexual maturity between the ages of three and four, and she will most likely have her first litter at that time.

Common Factors That Impact the Tiger’s Lifespan

Today, the most serious threats to tiger populations are habitat loss/fragmentation and poaching. The IUCN Red List classifies the tiger as endangered. The worldwide wild tiger population was estimated to be between 3,062 and 3,948 adult animals as of 2015, with the majority of the populations residing in small isolated enclaves. Other estimates of the tiger population now put them at over 5,000 tigers in the wild.

Tigers have been overhunted by humans for their fur as well as other body parts that are used in traditional medicines. Tiger bones have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to alleviate anxiety and treat ulcers, bites, rheumatism, convulsions, and burns.

Tiger habitat has also been severely depleted as people have developed land for agricultural and timber purposes. When land is altered for agricultural reasons, logging, and land conversion for domestic animal grazing there is habitat loss and fragmentation that negatively impacts the tiger’s natural habitats. 

However, there is optimism that these large cats may make a comeback in Russia’s Siberian area. According to the most recent data from the subspecies’ home in Russia, the Siberian tiger population is on the rise. Conservationists estimated 423-502 Amur tigers in Siberia ten years ago. However, the Russian government and WWF said last month that the number of tigers had increased to 480-540, including an estimated 100 cubs.

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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