I'm planning on creating a Tiger character. I don't have much experience with animal anatomy so I'm pouring over photographs and videos to learn how these great beasts are put together. It's amazing how close the big cats are in construction to their domestic counterparts. The end result I hope to achieve is somewhere between the Lion King degree of abstraction and the more simplified animals that Nico Marlet designs for Dreamworks.
There are 3,200 tigers left in the wild....in the world. That was a startling fact to be confronted with. Tigers have been my favorite animal since I was five and wrote a story in kindergarten about a tiger who lived in a trashcan and mauled those that came too close (no joke). I read Calvin and Hobbes, ate my Frosted Flakes, etc. All this time I've marveled at these creatures, in zoos, national geographic, or in abstractions like Master Tigress in Kung Fu Panda. Tigers were always there.
Now we are coming to a period of time that might not have tigers. In this, the year of the Tiger, we should really be aware of their shrinking populations and find a way to help rebuild.
Incidentally, the UN has declared 2010 the year of Biodiversity. Not just tigers but other species are disappearing from our planet due to habitat loss, climate change, and man's intervention.
The World Wildlife Fund site for Tigers:
The UN site for 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity:
and finally, back to the WWF for a resource about things we can do, whether it be writing a letter to Congress or donating time/money.