Tiger is the largest living member of the big cat family. It has a graceful built. The reddish yellow coat with black stripes gives it a royal look. Ventrally it is white. Its ears are black on the outside and each of them has a prominent white spot on it.
The scientific name of tiger is 'Panthera tigris'. The origin of the cat family from what we know today is Siberia. From there, they migrated down south as the climate became colder. Tigers are found in Siberia, Manchuria and the Asian continent. In Asia, India and Malaysia are the two prominent countries where tigers live. The Indian tigers, the Royal Bengal tigers are the most graceful animals found in Sundarban in Bengal.
In India we had over forty thousand tigers in the beginning of the 20th century. Today it is very sad to note that the statistics is much lower. The reasons for tiger becoming an endangered species are uncontrolled felling of trees resulting in the shrinkage of the habitat of the tiger, decrease of preys, increase of poaching for its beautiful skin. The treat of extinction forced the government of India to initiate the 'Project Tiger' on the first of April 1973 when the tiger population was less than 2000. Initially nine tiger reserves were selected. This number has now increased.
The tiger lives in varied habitats open jungles, humid evergreen forests and mango grove swamps. Its diet consists mainly of deer, antelopes, gaurs and wild pigs. Sometimes it also captures birds, lizards, turtles, fishes, frogs and crabs. Tigers hunt on their own and usually lead a solitary existence, each in its own territory. They are endowed with good swimming power but seldom climb trees.
The Major Sites
Most Bengal tigers live in India, and some range through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Their esimated population is approximately 3,250-4,700 tigers, with roughly 333 in captivity, mostly in zoos in India. White tigers are basicaly a color variant of the Bengal tiger and are rarely found in the wild.
Tigers in the Wild Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal
The Bengal tiger is found mainly throughout India, with smaller populations in southern Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and western Myanmar.The Cat Specialist Group IUCN reported an approximate total of 3,250 to 4,700 Bengal tigers throughout the range in 1995. For several decades, the status of wild tigers in India has been estimated from the individual identification of footprints (or pug marks), this method has been challenged for the inaccuracy and manipulation of humans. The first total Indian census in 1971 produced a baseline figure of about 1,800 tigers. The Tiger Project or 'Project Tiger' and Wildlife Institute of India, officials reported in more or less accurate censuses that tiger numbers increased to 4,334 in 1989. These estimates were disputed by Indian biologists, who strongly suggested the number is far lower.
The Cat Specialist Group reported 2,750 to 3,750 Bengal tigers in India in 1994. These tigers are distributed among 66 protected areas, of which more than 20 fall under the umbrella of Project Tiger, a program based on total protection of tigers and conservation of selected habitats as reserves managed primarily for tigers. Another 150-250 tigers live in three protected areas in Nepal, 50-240 tigers are in four protected areas in Bhutan, about 300-460 tigers live in three protected areas in Bangladesh, and an unknown number of tigers remain in Myanmar. Although the wild Bengal tiger populations are considered more secure in India than other tiger subspecies found elsewhere in Asia, there exists the potential for rapid demise of wild populations through recently increased levels of poaching and poisoning.
Indian zoos have bred tigers since 1880, the first time being at the Alipore Zoo in Calcutta. In the last two decades they have bred so successfully that there are now too many. Unfortunately other subspecies of tigers brought by dealers from outside India over the years have been mixed with Indian tigers, so that many zoo tigers are of questionable lineage and therefore not appropriate for conservation purposes. The 1994 International Tiger Studbook lists the current global captive population of Bengal tigers at 333 tigers; 289 have the typical orange coloration of most free-ranging tigers, the remaining 44 are the white color morph, a rarely observed form in the free-ranging population. All of the studbook-registered captive population is maintained in Indian zoos, except for one female Bengal tiger in North America. Completion of the Indian Bengal Tiger Studbook is a necessary prerequisite to establishing a captive management program for tigers in India.
The Royal Bengal tiger, the national animal of India is an incredible sight. With its orange hide marked with dark stripes, its white underbelly, long tail, huge paws and fearsome teeth, the Royal Bengal Tiger of India is justifiably called the "King of the Jungle." It is the largest of the Big Cats. There are several subspecies of Tiger of which the Siberian Tiger is the largest.
Zoological name : Panthera tigris tigris
Range: The Royal Bengal Tiger is found in the wild across India in protected forests, and in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Estimated population : It is estimated that there are around 3,250 - 4,700 Royal Bengal Tigers in the wild with over 330 in captivity, including zoos and animal parks.
Physical characteristics: Royal Bengal Tigers can have an incredible size ranging in length from under 6 feet to over 9 feet, while the length of its tail can be over 3 feet. Adult male tigers are larger than female tigers. The color of the Royal Bengal Tigers pelt can range from orange to tan with white beneath. The pattern of stripes on a tiger's skin is unique to each tiger. The patterns are used to identify and enumerate tigers based on tiger sightings in wildlife national parks in India. Tigers can shed their short thick fur in summer and it grows in thickness in winter. The Siberian tiger, the largest of the tigers, lives in a snow covered landscape, protected by its thick fur. Tigers have large, padded paws, with retractable claws. The paw print or pugmark of each tiger is also unique and is therefore used for identification and tracking by wildlife officials. Tigers have a large head, big ears and thick whiskers. The strong jaw of the tiger is used to bite the throat or neck of the tiger's prey. Tigers have incredible vision, their sight is enhanced by a reflecting layer behind the retina called the tapetum, whereby light is reflected back onto the retina, enabling tigers to see six times better than humans.
All white tigers in captivity in the world today are the descendants of one white tiger, Mohan caught by the Maharaja of Rewa in 1951. A White Tiger is the same as a Royal Bengal Tiger except for a genetic mutation that causes the change in the color of their fur and eyes. White tigers have blue eyes and brownish stripes.
Habitat :Tigers prefer thick grass, dense jungle and undergrowth in which they can hide and wait for their prey. The stripes on the hide of the tiger act as an incredible camouflage and help the tiger conceal itself in tall grass and vegetation. In the dry jungles of wildlife parks in Ranthambore and Sariska in Rajasthan India, tigers are often seen in the ruins of monuments and temples in the park. Tigers unlike other cats, like water and in the hot summer are often seen sitting or lying in pools of water to stay cool and are good swimmers.
Diet : Royal Bengal Tigers are carnivores and hunt for prey. Their prey includes deer, wild buffalo, elephants, wild pigs and cattle in areas of human encroachment. Aged, sick or injured tigers that are unable to hunt swift-footed prey have been known to turn man-eater.
Behavior :Royal Bengal Tigers are usually solitary. Tiger couples have sometimes been seen, however a family group commonly consists of a mother and her cubs that live with her for around 2 years. Male tigers are known to fight over territory. A male tigers territory usually overlaps the territory of more than one tigress. Tigers mark their territory by urinating and spraying scent from a specialized gland. A tigress retires to a den to bear her litter, which usually consists of 2-4 cubs. In the wild, tigers live from 8- 15 years. In zoos, tigers have been recorded as living up to 26 years.
Status : Royal Bengal Tiger is an endangered species. Their numbers were recorded as below 2000 in the 1970's, after which Project Tiger was initiated in India in 1973 in wildlife national parks and sanctuaries of India. There has been a steady increase in the population of tigers in India where they are protected in 27 tiger reserves, wildlife national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The threat of poaching due to the demand for tiger bones and body parts in traditional Chinese medicine remains a pressing issue. The loss of habitat as well as human population pressure on wildlife reserves in India is another concern.
Tigresses are devoted mothers who are very protective of their cubs. They look after their young till they are about two and a half years old. Some of the places where tigers can be best observed in their natural habitats are the Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks, Bandipur, Ranthambore, Manas, Kaziranga, and Nagarhole.