Siberian tigers, the world's largest felines, possess individual character traits that can directly influence their success in reproduction and survival, according to a recently-published study. The research was based on a personality test adapted from a human version which was given to 248 Siberian tigers held in semi-captivity in China.
The personality test results showed that the cats had two overarching personality categories: 'majesty' and 'steadiness'. Tigers with 'majesty' were generally healthier, ate more, and mated more often than those with 'steadiness'. However, these contrasting personalities both appear to have their benefits for the species. The steadier cats possessed gentler, more sincere, and loving traits that likely benefit cub rearing. In addition, the researchers found very few sex-related differences between personalities among tiger populations, with fathers even being observed taking part in raising cubs.
These findings bring light to the complexity of animal behavior and mentality as well as contribute useful insights into conservation efforts. "It's pleasant to see that you don't have to be dominant, fierce, competitive, and aggressive in order to succeed as a tiger," said Rosalind Arden of the London School of Economics who co-authored this study. Similar studies highlighting primate personalities have helped humanize them and Arden notes that there is evidence it improves animal welfare and conservation overall.
Unfortunately, Siberian tigers are incredibly endangered due to poaching and habitat loss; fewer than 600 remain living in the wild today. Thus making every available resource we have on them all the more valuable so that we can create strategies best catered towards preserving this beautiful species alive. It is critical to increasing our knowledge and understanding of their behavior, ecology, and population size. To that end, conservationists have implemented monitoring programs such as radio collaring the tigers to track their movements better and gather data on them.