Recently voted the world's favourite animal, tigers are potent symbols of both fierce beauty and vulnerability in the face of manmade destruction. Like the lion, they belong to the genus Panthera, and are classified as endangered. They are the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and South Korea, and are considered to be the King of the Beasts within eastern Asian folklore. The name of the tiger in Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book', Shere Khan, means 'Tiger King' in English.
The pattern of a tiger's stripes are his own fingerprint; no two are ever the same. Fossils suggest that the animals have existed for around two million years, though their habitat is now obviously hugely depleted. They tend to be solitary animals, only socialising with other tigers during mating and the rearing of cubs.
Of the six surviving subspecies, there are thought to be less than 4,000 living in the wild. Many zoos around the world are making concerted efforts to breed in captivity, in the hope that these remarkable animals can be saved. In the wild, deforestation and poaching are to blame for the steep decline in their numbers.