How much meat does a tiger eat in a year?

I am fortunate enough to have some data on this topic provided by Mel Sunquist in his work dated 1981: The social organisation of tigers in Royal Chitawan National Park, Nepal. The Information is also published in his book Wild Cats of the World, published in 2002. The calculation goes as follows. Each tigress makes 45 kills annually and eats 46 kg of meat at each kill. This results in an overall annual figure of 2070 kg of meat consumed. Fiona Sunquist, his wife, decided that the figure is "probably realistic, as it is similar to the amount of meat fed to zoo tigers: 5 to 6 kilograms per day.

Tiger eating
Tiger eating. Photo: Pixabay.

They also state that non-reproducing female tigers require an average of 3.7 kg per day. Male tigers require an average of 4.8 kg per day as researched by ES Dierenfeld in 1987 in their work Nutritional considerations in captive tiger management, in Tigers of the world: The biology, biopolitics, management, and conservation of an endangered species.

Tigers don't normally eat stomach contents, bones and skin and these pieces of anatomy in prey animals constitute about 30% of body weight. If a tiger utilises about 70% of a carcass, to eat 2070 kg annually "it is necessary for her to kill animals whose combined weight is approximately 3,000 kg".

Male tigers, lactating females and tigresses caring for growing cubs need to kill more and the estimate is around 3,400 kg of prey animals per year. They decided that these figures are the minimum amount needed. Also, there is a presumption that none of the kills are stolen, lost to humans or other predators and scavengers.

The research turned on the question as to whether tiger predation of animals has a serious consequence on the population of prey animals in any one area i.e. whether it depletes the population to the point where their survival is endangered. Here and now, I don't have an answer to that question. I do know however that human predation on the tiger's prey animals has an impact on tiger survival in the wild.

Postscript: early studies on tiger hunting in India estimated that tigers killed between 52-122 animals per year but Fiona Sunquist stated that these figures are unreliable because they weren't accompanied by information on "prey size and the number of tigers feeding on the kills".

Ref: page 352 Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.


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