home to elephants, lions, hippos, and more dominant animals, there have never been any wild tigers in Africa.
It’s surprising to many. As part of the Felidae family of cats, ancestors of tigers originated in Africa. The family includes cheetahs, lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars – some of which do live in the African plains.
However, it is believed that one branch of the family travelled to Asia roughly two million years go, eventually evolving into the striped predators that sit atop the food chain in areas of India, Nepal and elsewhere today.
Although this is the common belief among researchers, no one knows for definite why tigers chose long ago to migrate from their homeland and never return.
J.L. David Smith, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s department of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, explained: “One can offer a series of speculations about why tigers did not get to Africa, but they are all speculations.”
Wildlife Conservation Society figures show that there are currently around 3,000 tigers left in the wild, and the animals are endangered in Asia as a result of poaching, loss of habitat, and a lack of prey.
Could tigers survive in the wild in Africa?
Since relatives such as leopards and lions live in Africa, many have wondered whether tigers could also live on the continent, but it’s unfortunately impossible to give a conclusive answer.
In September 2003, two captive-born South China tiger cubs were introduced to South Africa by Li Quan, an ex-fashion executive from Beijing, and her husband Stuart Bray, founders of the Save China’s Tigers Foundation.
The two purchased 30,000 hectares of land in South Africa for the breeding project, which aimed to rewild them in the continent before moving them back to China, but it was met with criticism after several of the cubs died.
Due to the vast differences between Asia and Africa’s ecosystems, we may never know whether or not tigers could survive on the continent.