Are There Tigers In Colombia?

credit: Peter Parker

It’s no secret that Colombia is a sprawling metropolis of natural beauty. Thousands of tourists visit each year to experience its impressive collection of fauna and flora that decorate the region. Colombia has six major wild cats, but are tigers among them? Let’s find out!

There are no tigers in Colombia, save for those imported to live in zoos, national parks, and sanctuaries. Tigers adapted to Asia and could never cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to get to South America. The most common tiger living in zoos, parks, or sanctuaries is the Bengal Tiger.

Are Tigers Native To Colombia?

Tigers do not inhabit Colombia, save for those that live in zoos. Years of survival had them adapt to Asia’s climate and habitat, and they never once decided to migrate or disperse to South America.

Ecological competition, geographical barriers, and human interference are the primary factors that influenced tigers’ preference to avoid South America.

Geographic Barriers

The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans stand between Asia and South America, meaning tigers would need to swim across to reach Colombia. In truth, even if it were possible, tigers are poor swimmers, which is why they prefer living around freshwater sources.

Furthermore, there are no reports of tigers using boats and rafts to cross over to South America. It may sound unbelievable, but that’s precisely what rats and monkeys did.

Rats, in particular, are notorious for their potential to expand and colonize new land. They often do so by hitching a ride on floating vegetation, debris, rafts, boats, or ships – intentionally or unintentionally – and have centuries of rafting experience! This was the case with Australia, which was previously rat-free.

Monkeys make surprisingly good sailors, too, as fossil evidence suggests. The evidence indicates that monkeys from the Parapithecidae family crossed the Atlantic Ocean from South America and Africa using natural rafts roughly 35 million years ago.

These stalwart conquerors of the sea were ancestors of the modern-day capuchin and woolly monkeys. Their small size made it easier to survive on limited food and water,  and they ate from the vegetation provided by their rafts.

Lady luck was also on their side because they caught all the right currents and winds to sail into the New World.

Ecological Competition

Colombia is home to six species of wild cats: Cougars (mountain lions, pumas), Jaguars, Margays, Ocelots, Jaguarundis, and Oncillas (northern tiger cats).

Tigers would experience fierce competition for food, water, and territory. The existing wild cats have dominion over local prey, leaving little room for tigers to inhabit the land. Such a hostile environment would make it incredibly challenging for tigers to survive and reproduce.

Human Interference

The hunting and killing of tigers for trophies, medicine, sport, and conflict likely contributed to tigers’ distribution habits. Development projects like road-building or logging also harm their habitat and cause them to migrate toward certain regions.

Tigers are less common than before, even in Asia. Harmful activities caused their numbers to dwindle over the last century. They now live in scattered populations across thirteen countries. Their low population count makes it highly unlikely that they will consider migrating to South America.

Can Tourists See Tigers In Colombia?

There are plenty of unique and exciting zoos and national parks where tourists can see tigers in all their majesty.

  • Zoológico de Cali – Tourists can see a unique collection of animals from Asia, Africa, and South America, including the Bengal Tiger.
  • Zoológico de Barranquilla – Zoologists here employ preservation tactics to provide exotic animal species a safe home and a chance at reproduction. It houses an impressive 500 species of animals from Africa, Asia, and South America, including tigers.
  • Bioparque Ukumarí – Animals here have carefully constructed habitats that closely mimic their natural environments. Tigers and animals from the Andean regions and African savannah are part of the collection.
  • Parque Explora – This uniquely scientific destination combines a zoo, aquarium, and vivarium. In addition to tigers, tourists can see birds, monkeys, toucans, and sloths. The aquarium houses 400 species of marine life, and the vivarium has 200 species of snakes, frogs, scorpions, and spiders.
  • Piscilago – Piscilago is a zoo and water park, offering a great time in the sun while enjoying some of nature’s most exotic animals. More than 200 animal species call the zoo home, including tigers, bears, lions, and elephants.

Those looking for a little more can enjoy the on-site golf course, train ride, and cinema.

  • Parque de la Conservación – This wildlife sanctuary protects animals who are victims of hunting, habitat loss, and trafficking. It houses 300 animals of 80 species, including tigers, deer, and tapir. Tourists can also learn more about the animals via its educational programs on biodiversity and conservation.

What Kind Of Tigers Exist In Zoos And Parks?

The Bengal Tiger is the most widespread subspecies of tiger that tourists can see at Colombia’s zoos, parks, and sanctuaries.

Bengal Tigers

Bengal tigers are a tiger subspecies that usually prefer the scorching hot forests and wetlands of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and India. They have orange or yellow fur with dark-brown stripes.

These tigers are brilliant beasts that can adapt to most habitats, from grasslands to scorching jungle temperatures. People revere them for their ferocity and beauty and often refer to them for their strength.

Though they live solitary lives, they mark their territory with roars, scents, and scratches to ward off intruders. They prefer to hunt at night, where the distinctive patterns on their coats give the best camouflage.

Tigers are familiar with the hunt, often traveling miles until they see a deer, antelope, or wild pig. A starving Bengal Tiger can eat up to 60 lbs (27 kg) in a single night.

Despite their solitary lifestyle, they are pretty affectionate toward their mates and offspring. They mate any time of the year, though they prefer winter, and litters range from two to six cubs.

The newborn cubs rely on their mothers for protection and nourishment until such a time that they can see.

They spend six months learning the hunting trade from their mom, after which they take their first steps into adulthood and hunt alone. When they grow to be two or three years old, they leave the comforts of home to start their own life.

Are Bengal Tigers Protected?

Habitat loss, poaching, human conflicts, and climate change are some of the major contributors that make Bengal Tigers endangered. These activities caused the Bengal Tiger population to dip from tens of thousands to fewer than 2,500 roaming the wild.

Hunters desire them because their pelts sell for good money, while their bones and other body parts make for valuable trophies or high-value medicinal ingredients.

Infrastructure developments like road-building and logging chip away at the space that tigers have available to find a home or hunt for food.

As a result, they venture far for these things, often running into conflicts with humans who kill them to avoid harm or property damage.

Climate change affects tigers by increasing the frequency of natural phenomena like droughts, floods, and large forest fires. They destroy any available food or habitat resources.

Bengal Tigers are essential to their local ecosystem because, as apex predators, they regulate the population for the rest of the animals. Their desire to leave an area also indicates that it lacks the necessary resources to sustain life.