Royal Bengal Tiger

The tiger (panthera tigris) is one of the biggest and most fearsome predators in the world. The tiger resembles cat in every respect except size. It has same sleek body, heavily padded paws, stiff white whiskers and rough tongue .It has the same sharp sense of sight, smell and hearing. It moves with same stealthy tread, grace and cunning. Like the cat it loves to be alone, hunts at night and relishes meat.

The tiger has a golden-fawn body with dark, black vertical stripes which run on either side from its spine down to its belly. The stripes, vary from brown to black, are lighter on the under parts of the body. The belly and the chest of the tiger are white. With age the tiger's stripes get fainter in colour and more spaced. Some tigers have very few stripes on the front-half of their bodies. The size and colour of tiger varies according to the climate. In general male tigers weigh between 180 and 320 kg and females between 120 and 180 kg .In actual fact the average length of a tiger is about three and a quarter metres. A tiger is normally measured from its head to the tip of its tail. The tigress is about one-third of a metre shorter than the male. The height of the tiger is a little over a metre. Of the living subspecies, Sumatran tigers are the smallest, and Siberian Tigers are the largest. A young tiger's coat is fluffy and its sand -coloured. As it grows older, its colour becomes richer and its stripes become bolder, prominent and more distinct. The female's colouring is brighter than the male's. In winter, the animal grows a thick coat of fur and its colour becomes richer. As summer approaches some of this fur is shed and the stripes lose their brightness. The tiger's whiskers are hard and white. The back of each ear is black with a white spot in the centre. The tiger's colour and stripes are an effective camouflage.In the summer they merge with the gold dried leaves and the withered undergrowth so closely that it is extremely difficult to spot or to trace the animal.

The life span of tigers on an average is around 8 to 15 years. Tigers in zoos live longer (between 16 and 20 years).

There is no tiger in North or South America, Australia or even Africa. It is generally believed that the original home of the tiger was northern Russia, from where it spread eastwards to Manchuria, Korea, China, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Java, Sumatra and the Island of Bali. Tigers not found in

Royal Bengal Tiger

Ceylon. This suggests that the land-bridge which existed between the island and the mainland had been submerged in the sea before the tiger entered India. The tiger entered India from Burma and gradually established haunts in Assam, Bengal, the foot-hills of the Himalayas, and the central and southern India. Indian subcontinent is the home of 80% of world's tigers. It is found in dense forest, valleys, caves, forested hills, and the banks of rivers and streams. In the Himalayas, tigers are found up to an altitude of 2400 to 2700 metres.

The tiger avoids strong sunlight and likes to spend the day by sleeping. It is only at dusk that the large, round dark pupils of its eyes are fully open. It can see better in the dark than light. In the beam of a flashlight, its eyes glow like embers. It's smell and sight is so developed that it can find its kill even in dark and can hear even the rustle of pages of the book or falling of a twig. The tiger is not an aggressive animal. It shies away from light, noise and crowd. Unless provoked, it never attacks; only a wounded tiger or a tigress guarding her young is known to turn savage. When it has been wounded then it displays its bravery and courage. Tiger is well known for its cleanliness. Nevertheless, it has a distinct and pungent smell which warns its prey of its approach. The tiger's claws are encased inside its padded paws. It occasionally sharpens them on the barks of trees. In the summer, tigers are often seen cooling themselves in shallow pools. They are also reputed to be powerful swimmers-tigers from Nepal are known to swim across the Sharda Canal to India. A tiger's tread is slow, stealthy and cautious. It walks on its toes, taking steps of a metre each. It has five claws on its fore-paws and four on its hind-paws. Its fore-feet are shorter than its hind-feet but its fore-paws are heavier, larger and rounder than its hind-paws. Sometimes the pug marks of the hind-paws cover those of the fore-paws and the spoors are mistaken for those of a biped. Pug marks help in tracking a tiger; it is even possible to tell its size and sex from them. The tiger swings its tail from left to right but when it is angry or happy, its tail is still. Tigers use their tails for balance when they run through fast turns. It is also used to communicate with other tigers.

Tigers are apex predators means they are at the top of a food chain. However, while in water they sometimes have to contend with crocodiles. On land, tigers have been known to prey on crocodiles.The tiger is a flesh-eating animal. It will eat any kind of flesh, in any state. It only eats meat and occasionally a little green grass, but that only for its medicinal value. It is wrongly believed that the tiger only eats an animal that it has itself killed.It will eat anyone's kill without distinction or discrimination. In fact, it is even known to relish rotting carcasses teeming the worms. A hungry tiger will eat up any living thing. In times of flood it lives on toads, frogs and fish. A tiger will eat even another tiger. Because tigers are known to eat their own offspring, the tigress keeps her cubs out of their father's reach. The tiger keeps changing its eating place with each meal. After having its fill, it hides the remains. A tiger can eat 25 to 30 kg meat at a time. The tiger does not leap upon its prey but stalks it carefully till it is quite close and then pounces on it. It strikes first at the back of the neck or the throat. No other animal is as neat and clean an eater as the tiger. It starts its meal from the rear of its victim and beginning with the groins eats the hair, skin, flesh and bones, only leaving the intestine which is carefully removes.

Showing Durga killing Mahisashur in Stone and Painting of very old age

The tiger is a lone hunter. It usually has a fixed "beat". It only kills when hungry. It usually eats three or four times in the month. Occasionally, a tiger becomes a man eater. An old, weak or wounded tiger pursues and captures its normal prey with great difficulty. If a man falls into its hand, it's eating habits change and it becomes a man-eater. The cubs of man-eating tigress also acquire a taste for human flesh. A man-eating tiger will not eat a man's skull.

The tigress carries the cubs in her womb for about 100 days and normally gives birth to a litter of three cubs. A new-born cub weighs about one and a half kilograms. The mother tigress hides her litter among caves and rocks or in the hollows of trees. She carries them by the scruff of their necks from one place to another. She will not let anyone come near them. They open their eyes on the ninth day but cannot see clearly for another couple of weeks. They stay close their mother for a long time. It is only when the tigress mates again to have another litter that she abandons her previous litter. A tigress in her natural habitat bears cubs every three years. She trains them the art of hunting and killing. It takes five years for a tiger to attain its full size. Over the course of her life, a female tiger will give birth to an approximately equal number of male and female cubs.

The tiger's skin, fur, whiskers, teeth, claws, flesh and fat are all put to use. Many people believe that eating tiger flesh makes them as strong and brave as the tiger. The tiger's fat is said to be a cure for rheumatism. Tiger's claws are set in silver and gold and worn as charms. The lucky bone from the tiger's shoulder is set in gold and worn. The tiger's skin is used as a rug and lasts for many years. The tigress's milk is said to cure many eye diseases. Nearly all the body parts of tiger are used in Chinese medicine for a range of purported uses including pain killers and aphrodisiacs.

There are nine subspecies of tiger, three of which are extinct and one of which is almost certain to become so in the near future. The South China Tiger is believed to be the first tiger. Poaching for fur greatly reduced tiger populations in the world, and it has been placed on the endangered species list. Other main factor contributing to their loss is urbanization .There are not many tigers left in India. As they are threatened with extinction, hunting them has been banned in many states. If forests continue to be cleared and animals which are the natural food of tigers destroyed at the present rate, there may soon be no tigers left in India.

Showing Durga killing Mahisashur in Stone and Painting of very old age

Tiger is symbol of strength, wrath, courage, wilderness and well-being of the ecosystem. By conserving and saving tigers the entire ecosystem can be restored. In nature, barring human beings and rest of the ecosystem is wild. So conserving wilderness is important and crucial to maintain the life support system. So by saving tiger we can save the entire ecosystem which is crucial for man's own survival in this earth.

In 1972, India introduced a massive wildlife conservation project, known as "Project Tiger", to protect the decreasing numbers of tigers in India. The project helped increase the population tigers from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,000 in the 1990s and is considered as one of the most successful wildlife conservation programs. Government of India enacted a comprehensive legislation "Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972" with the objective of effectively controlling poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and its derivatives. This has been amended recently from January, 2003.