The Indochinese tiger or Corbett's tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is a subspecies of tiger found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. Tigers in peninsular Malaysia, formerly classified as Indochinese, have recently been reclassified as a separate subspecies, Malayan tiger Panthera tigris jacksoni. The "Corbett's" name stems from the scientific name of the subspecies, Panthera tigris corbetti, which in turn is named in honor of Jim Corbett.
Male Indochinese tigers measure 2.55 to 2.85 metres (8.37 to 9.35 ft) in length, weigh 150 to 195 kilograms (330 to 430 lb); the skull measures between 319 to 365 millimetres (13 to 14 in) in length. The average male Indochinese tiger is approximately 2.74 m (9 ft) long and weighs about 180 kg (420 lb). Large individuals can weigh well over 250 kg (550 lb).
Female Indochinese tigers measure 2.30 to 2.55 m (7.55 to 8.37 ft) in length, weigh 100 to 130 kg (221 to 287 lb), with a skull length of 275 to 311 mm (11 to 12 in). The average female Indochinese tiger is approximately 2.44 m (8 ft) in length and weighs about 115 kg (300 lb).
Indochinese tigers are very powerful. In Vietnam, there is a documented case of a large male that was killed in 1984 near the Vietnam-Laos border. This tiger, with a total length of 2.8 m (9 ft) and a total weight of about 250 kg (550 lb), had terrorized villages in its territory for a number of years before being killed. It had killed over ten buffaloes in the villages, despite the villager's attempts to stop it. When one village built a 3 meter(9.8 ft)fence around the cattle enclosure, the tiger managed to jump this fence, kill a calf, and jump back over, holding the 60 kg (130 lb) animal in its mouth. The tiger was finally killed when villagers set up a gun trap on a discarded buffalo carcass, which the tiger set off when he tried to take the buffalo away. The tiger's body was found by a stream about 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) away from the trap site, meaning that the tiger could still go that far after suffering a mortal wound.
Indochinese tigers live in secluded forests in hilly to mountainous terrain, the majority of which lies along the borders between countries. Entrance to these areas is frequently restricted, and as of late biologists have been granted limited permits for field . For this reason, comparatively little is known about the status of these big cats in the wild. Mother tigers give birth to two or three cubs at a time.
Indochinese tigers prey mainly on medium- and large-sized wild ungulates. Sambar deer, wild pigs, serow, and large bovids such as banteng and juvenile gaur comprise the majority of Indochinese tiger’s . However, in most of Southeast Asia large animal populations have been seriously depleted because of illegal hunting, resulting in the so-called “empty forest syndrome” – i.e. a forest that looks intact, but where most wildlife has been eliminated. Some species, such as the kouprey and Schomburgk’s deer, are extinct, and Eld’s deer, hog deer and wild water buffalo are present only in a few relict populations. In such habitats tigers are forced to subsist on smaller prey, such as muntjac deer, porcupines, macaques and hog badgers. Small prey by itself is barely sufficient to meet the energy requirements of a large carnivore such as the tiger, and is insufficient for tiger reproduction. This factor, in combination with direct tiger poaching for traditional Chinese medicine, is the main contributor in the collapse of the Indochinese tiger throughout his range.
Population and threats
Estimates of its population vary between 1,227 to 1,785, but it seems likely that the number is in the lower part of the range. The largest population of the subspecies was formerly considered to be in Malaysia, where illegal poaching is strictly controlled. However, as of 2004, tigers in Malaysia have been reclassified as another subspecies of tiger, the Malayan Tiger. This effectively means that the actual number of Indochinese tigers is less than half of the above estimates. All existing populations are at extreme risk from poaching, prey depletion due to poaching of deer and wild pigs, habitat fragmentation and inbreeding.
In Vietnam, almost three-quarters of the tigers killed provide stock for Chinese pharmacies. Tigers are seen by poor natives as a resource through which they can ease poverty.
The tiger's numbers will be difficult to increase unless residents can view a live tiger as more valuable than a dead one. Some are starting to realize this and are hoping to use the tiger as a draw for ecotourism.