Sexually mature at around three years old for females and from three to six years old for males, tigers ̶ ordinarily solitary animals ̶ meet during oestrus (the two- to five-day period in which the female is receptive and capable of conceiving young) in order to mate.
The reproduction phase, which may occur at any time of the year (especially in tropical environments, where the majority of the sub-species live), varies according to geographical areas. To indicate her presence and availability, the tigress in heat wails frequently, and leaves stronger traces of its movement than usual (odours, faeces, claw marks on trees…).
Once close, the felines carry out courtship rituals that include lots of contact, biting and rubbing. When the female accepts the male, she takes a sitting position with her forelegs outstretched and hind legs half folded. Crouched on the female, the partner penetrates her, catching her by the skin of the neck during ejaculation. At the end of the act, which lasts only a few seconds and can be repeated as much as 30 times, the tigress turns around aggressively and tries to strike her companion before she rests. It is only at the end of the oestrus that the male will look for another partner.
Finally, after a gestation period of from 95 to 107 days, the tigress delivers between one and six cubs (two or three on average) in an isolated area. Then it will be necessary for the female to wait from 18 to 20 months to mate again (less if the mother has lost all the litter). The tiger is an animal that has a strong capacity for regenerating its population. However, the threats affecting it ̶ notably those posed by humans ̶ are preventing it from doing so, and are even leading to the disappearance of the species.
© Fabien Lemaire