Tigers, the largest of the big cats, do not live in Africa. Though there are a number of large cats and predators to be found throughout the continent, tigers are not one of them. Wild tigers are found only in Asia across 13 tiger-range countries. The natural habitat of tigers in the wild is widespread and includes a variety of habitats. While they tend to be found primarily in forested areas, they also occupy grasslands, mangrove swamps and even rocky environments. These majestic creatures can be found from China, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, to India and parts of Russia. India has the largest population of wild tigers (around 3,000). While their territory was once very widespread, poaching and loss of habitat has left the populations of many tiger subspecies at risk or highly threatened. In total, there are around 4,000 tigers left in the wild in Asia.
Africa Has Its Own Top Predators
Even though there are no wild tigers residing in Africa, the continent has some of the largest predators in the world, including a number of species of other big cats. Arguably, the most well known African big cat predator is the lion. Lions live primarily in the Sahara desert, and in the sub-Saharan countries of Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Like tigers, they once lived more abundantly, but their territories have dwindled over time. Lions are one of the four ‘big cats’ of the genus Panthera. These animals live in packs, known as prides, and spend much of their lives together, hunting living and snoozing in groups. They favor wide open grasslands, like the savannah, and hunt grass-eating herd animals such as antelope, gazelles and wildebeests.
Another of Africa’s big cat predators is the leopard. These powerful creatures can be found in sub-Saharan and north east Africa. But their population is considered vulnerable in terms of endangerment. Largely considered the most elusive of the big cats, leopards can be hard to spot in the wild. They are extremely powerful and formidable hunters. Unlike lions, which live and hunt in packs, leopards live more solitary lives, taking down deer, antelope and pigs on their own. They sleep and hunt mainly from trees, and are excellent climbers. Their spotted coats allow them to camouflage among leaves to conceal them from prey, and allow them to rest undetected during the day. Leopards are also extremely adept swimmers, and have been known to fish and travel large distances through rivers and large bodies of water.
African cheetah’s are also native to Africa. Known best as being the fastest land mammal on earth, they can be expert hunters as well. Residing across much of Africa, they live in the savannah, Serengeti and Sahara. Like so many large mammals, they too have isolated populations and fractured territories, as well as a vulnerable global population. These cats are not only threatened by poaching and habitat loss, but they are also highly susceptible to disease and can be timid. Cheetahs also need extremely large territories to thrive. Given their fragmented habitats, they are increasingly running into conflict with other cheetahs or other large predators. Despite their speed and power, their prey can often be bullied away from them by other cheetahs, hyenas or even lions. Because of this, they can have trouble feeding or maintaining enough food to survive. This has also forced cheetahs to threaten farmlands and roaming herds, in turn making them the target of poachers.