The Royal Bengal Tiger
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
Tigers in the Wild Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and
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.
Some Major Sites
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Wildlife Sanctuaries :
Tourists can see the incredible Royal Bengal
Tiger in the following Wildlife National Parks on India wildlife tours:
Bandipur National Park -Nagarhole (Karnataka), Corbett (Uttaranchal), Kanha
(Madhya Pradesh), Manas (Assam), Melghat(Maharashtra), Palamau (Jharkhand),
Ranthambhore (rajasthan), Similipal (Orissa), Sunderbans (West Bengal),
Periyar (Kerala), Sariska (rajasthan), Buxa (West Bengal),Indravati
(Chattisgarh), Nagarjunsagar (Andhra Pradesh), Namdapha (Arunachal Pradesh),
Dudhwa-Katerniaghat (Uttar Pradesh), Kalakad-Mundanthurai (Tamil Nadu),
Valmiki (Bihar), Pench (Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra), Tadoba-Andhari
(Maharashtra), Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh), Dampha (Mizoram), Bhadra
(Karnataka), Pakhui-Nameri (Arunachal Pradesh-Assam), Bori, Satpura,
Pachmari (Madhya Pradesh).
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.