Evalu Falatanoi, of Linwood High School, asks :-

Why do tigers have stripes?

Barbara Blanchard, a zoologist who is keeper of the new-born tigers at Wellington Zoo, responded.

Tigers have stripes to survive and because they have survived.

Animals, as we see them today, have taken millions of years to develop into the form which fits them for their habitat and lifestyle. This is an aspect of evolution.

Tigers have stripes for camouflage so they can hide while waiting for a prey animal to come within sprinting distance for a kill. The distinct contrast we see in a tiger's basic coat colours of black and orange appear in shades of grey to all but birds and primates (humans, apes, monkeys) and blend in well with the tall grass which is their main habitat. This is called disruptive colouration, which means the outline of the animal is broken up by the stripe pattern and is not perceived as a threatening object by prey, or, it disappears in the uneven pattern of shade which occurs in tall grass or open woodland. Stripes increase in numbers with the increase in vegetation cover.

It follows that if an animal is a successful hunter it becomes healthy with a better chance of successful breeding, and rearing the offspring to independence, ensuring that that successful line is preserved. One author has listed tigers as only successful in 8/% of hunting episodes, the lowest of all the great cats, but survive it does. Human pressure is the main threat to tigers.