Are there Tigers in Africa? | Where the Big Cats Originate

July 19, 2021

We can all be forgiven for thinking of Africa as the homeland of all animals since our own origins stem from its lands. And indeed, the tigers’ ancestors did originate in Africa.

Our modern striped tiger, however, does not naturally live in Africa. You can quite easily find them in captivity if you’re looking to lock eyes with one. There are a number of other wild animals that can be found on the African continent, like the animals in the Kruger National Park.

But, are there tigers in Africa? Read on to find the answers to all your questions about where these gorgeous striped mammals live.

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Why Are There No Tigers in Africa?

We’ve established that wild tigers are not indigenous to Africa, though you can imagine them fitting in well amongst the African wildlife as predators.

Actually, tigers, lions and leopards share a common big cat ancestor. They are all part of the Felidae family of cats, which originated in Africa. Around 2 million years ago this ancestor Felidae migrated to Asia and evolved into the striped tigers.

Scientists don’t know exactly why, but tigers never migrated back to Africa after evolving and settling in Asia. It is speculated that the passing of time and subsequent tectonic movements and geographic boundaries made it impossible.

Whatever the exact reason, Africa has never been home to the modern tiger.

So just where are tigers in Africa? These cats are living in captivity, particularly now in South Africa. So if you’re in Africa and really want to see this huge endangered cat, consider looking in at wildlife reserves. Are there tigers in Kruger National Park in South Africa?

Well no, traveling to this beautiful location should be for a full-day safari to experience the Big 5 and other African wildlife.

Your visit can also help further population conservation efforts by putting money back into their rehabilitation and care. We all want to see more tigers in the world.

You can also try this open-vehicle safari in the amazing Pilanesberg Game Reserve in South Africa to experience the search for big cats while in their African habitats, like the cheetah, lion, and other cats that they share a common ancestor with.

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Where do Tigers Originate from?

A tiger has never originally lived in Africa. Tigers come from Asia, particularly India and South China. However, this is such a broad, all-encompassing statement, as Asia is such a huge continent.

There are nine subspecies of tiger, three of which became extinct in the 1980s. The remaining six subspecies all originate from the East within Asia with the different species of tigers inhabiting different areas.

The Bengal tiger is the subspecies most commonly found in the wild with a few in national parks. Other subspecies include the Sumatran tiger, Amur tiger, Indochinese tiger, South China tiger, and Malayan tiger.

There are not many visible differences between the different wild tiger types, but the countries where the big cats live give us an idea of their species since different countries have tigers endemic to that area and wildlife.

The thirteen tiger range countries are mostly in Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. So if you have a lifelong dream of seeing a tiger in its natural habitat, that’s where you’ll have to head to. Though your chances of seeing one are slim as they are an endangered species and so few wild tigers are left.

It’s best to steer clear of these big cats in the wild, for their sake and your own. After all, you don’t want to aid in the feeding of tigers quite so directly. Rather visit the Nairobi National Park in Kenya for a tour that includes the animal orphanage for a chance to see all the cats and other animals.

Where Do Tigers Live Today?

The Jungle Book got it right, tigers are mostly native to the jungles of Asia. They are also comfortable in mountainous areas, savannahs, grasslands, tropical rainforests, evergreen forests, snow and even in mangrove swamps.

In other words, they are predators that hunt in spaces where they can search for and sneak up on their prey to survive just like another big cat, leopards.

After all, they are not as fast as their related cousins, the cheetah. Nor do they hunt in packs for prey, like lions. So although they are the largest and strongest of all big cats, they need to be close to their prey to really make use of their impressive attributes.

As we can see with the wide range of climates that tigers are comfortable in, they are very well adapted to their countries’ different environments. Tigers sometimes make their dens in caves, dense vegetation and old trees. However, they don’t always have a den, and will happily sleep anywhere they feel safe.

And they do get sleepy often, Tigers sleep between 16-20 hours a day. In comparison to the common housecat, which sleeps around 12 hours. They’re real loungers who mainly sleep during the day and hunt animals and other wildlife during the night. Classic cat stuff.

Tigers do not live in packs, they are solitary animals. A mother will look after her cubs for approximately two years, and then those cubs must find their own territory, habitat and food.

Tigers have home ranges across which they roam, the size of which differs according to the availability of food. They do not patrol their habitat, but they do mark them with urine and feces in order to warn other tigers and wildlife that the area is inhabited.

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Cat Conservation

A century ago there were as many as 100 000 wild tigers in the world. Today, the population is less than 4000 living in the wild. This is related to extensive poaching which has not slowed, despite the big cat’s status.

While this number might seem dismal, being a 97% decrease in just 100 years, it’s actually progress. The Conservation efforts have, according to the WWF, resuscitated numbers from as low as 3200 in 2010.

In 2010, Russia did answer the call and held a summit for the conservation of all six subspecies of tiger. Government leaders, advocacy groups, and donor states from around the world came together to make a plan of action to save them and to ensure the species can survive from extensive hunting by poaching predators.

The governments of the 13 tiger range countries set an ambitious goal, to double tiger numbers by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger.

tiger in the grass up close

To Conclude: Do Tigers Live in Africa?

So, are there tigers in Africa? In conservation areas maybe but not in the wild. Instead. take a trip to the Kruger National Park on the Mother continent, go on a safari and witness the tiger’s African cousins instead. If South Africa isn’t for you then have a look at some of the best African safari tours with one or two in Kenya.

While we may wonder if that goal will be accomplished, we can clearly see that the numbers are moving in the right direction. In our modern world of slashed natural habitats, anything that is not further loss might be taken as a success.

The increase in numbers also means that we do know what it takes to save tigers. Hopefully, many other animal species will follow suit.

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