About The Tiger in India
Tiger an Introduction
World's most enchanting animal, the tiger is a powerful predator that is critically endangered and on the brink of extinction. Flourishing since ages in the wilderness of Asia, the animal is now critically endangered. The survival is restricted to few Asian countries and Siberia in Russia. India holds the largest population which totals to more than 1700 big cats in the wild. The latest census in 2015 has resulted in 2200 tigers living in Indian forests.
The survival of the big cat is still under severe threat. The greatest danger is from poachers who roam the Indian forests to kill this magnificent animal. Destruction of forests is another factor which is reducing the tiger's homeland. This is affecting the animal's breeding in India.
The animal is one of the most charismatic and powerful. The hunting ability, ferociousness and a secretive lifestyle has created an intrigue. Myths and fables revolve around the big cat all over the region where it is found. In India the animal is associated with Hindu Deity - Goddess Durga. It is said to be the vehicle of the Goddess. Several tribes pray at the animal as Van Devi in the jungles.
Indian Bengal Tiger - panthera tigris tigris
It is called Bengal Tiger because of its large presence in Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in the state of Bengal in India.
Tiger Conservation Video
Tiger Sub Species
There are nine tiger sub species three of which have become extinct.
- Bengal Tiger
- Indo Chinese
- Sumatran Tiger
- South China Tiger
- Siberian Tiger
Extinct Tiger Species
- Bali Tiger
- Caspian Tiger
- Javan Tiger
Most the the extinct tigers species have been hunted down. The depletion of prey base is also responsible.
About The Tiger
In the food chain the tiger is a tertiary carnivore and a primary predator. The animal lives in dense forests of all types, and in tall grasslands. It lives in the plains with adequate forest cover as well - at the foothills of Himalayas in India and Nepal.
The tiger arrived in India about ten thousand years ago from cold climes of Siberia and China. It entered through the Indo-Malayan region or perhaps Myanmar. There were more than forty thousand tigers in India at the turn of the century but the species is now under threat.
Severe decrease in tiger numbers have come about due to extensive destruction of its habitats. Poaching, man animal conflict has also contributed to the decrease in numbers. During the British Raj in India the tiger was declared as vermin and killed in large numbers. The beginning of down slide in population is attributed to this period.
The tiger now survives in protected areas and some reserve forests. The conservation program "Project Tiger" has been at the helm of protecting the species in the country, and to increase its numbers. The major threat to the big cat arises from the demand for bones and other body parts for Chinese Medicine Factories.
Tigers About to Mate
Distribution of Tigers in Indian Subcontinent
The big cats are found in foothills from Himalayas to Southern most tip of India. They inhabit tropical forests types moist evergreen, arid forests, subtropical moist deciduous, mangroves, subtropical and temperate upland forests and tall grasslands.
The tigers are not found anymore in Gujarat. Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir. They are not found in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. They exist in Bhutan, Bangladesh & Nepal. The largest population is in Sunderbans, forests found in East India and Bangladesh.
Tiger at Waterhole
The tiger is an ambush hunter, but does indulge in a short chase whenever required. The animal kills by surprise using its camouflage technique and great ability to stay still.
Being crepuscular, it hunts during the predawn period as well as in the late evenings. This is the period when its eyesight works the best as compared to the prey. It is able to see much better than human beings during the dark as well.
The tiger usually marks its prey before stalking and charging on it. This he does by sitting still well hidden in a bush, behind a tree or in grass. The animal has incredible ability to remain unseen even at a short distance. This is the moment the animal marks it's prey to make a kill. The attack is highly focused and the prey is usually charged from a short distance.
For smaller size animals like the spotted deer, the big cat strikes at the cervical vertebrae and then pierces the canine to rupture the jugular artery. For larger animals like the bison the tiger strikes at the hind legs to rupture the veins and let the animal bleed to death.
Some times the tigress half kills a small mammal and leaves it to the cubs to finish. This is her way of teaching the growing cubs to hunt. Breeding females with grown up cubs hunt in unison. Hunting along with the mother is a learning process for growing cubs.
While mating is going on the male and female stay together for about three days. They mate and then hunt together.
Food & Prey
The tiger eats anything that is live but its usual prey is the deer species of which spotted deer and sambar deer are most common. The tiger also kills bison which weigh more than a ton, about five time the tiger's weight. It kills langur, wild boar, sloth bear, Nilgai and many other animals for food. Humans are not part of the tiger's food chain but when it becomes a man eater it kills them with ferocious rapacity.
At a given instance after the kill a tiger eats about thirty kg of meat and will consume about 150 kg in three to four days time. The animal gets food once a week approximately and has to go hungry for long period sometimes.
Territory: Control & Marking
The male tigers hold specific territory in an ecosystem. The territory could be just few square km or as large as fifty square km. The females, cubs and subservient young males are allowed to share.
Dominant tigers fight fiercely to guard their territory which some define as a spacing mechanism. The size of the area covered depends upon the availability of water, shelter and females. Dominant tigers often transgress into each others space but the fight does not takes place every time.
The tigers spread chemicals like pheromone through their urine on grass, tree trunks and ground. They also spread pheromone through their faeces. Tiger's sharpen their claws on the soft bark of the trees and in the process create a territorial marking. The vocalisation also plays a role warning rivals to stay away from the area. The territorial mark ups also help avoid conflicts between tigers as they move away from the area if not in the process to take over. This is done whence the rival is not in the position to take over a dominant tiger.
Male Tiger Photo
Mating Period & Breeding
Tigers mate all around the year but more so in winters. The female displays its sexual state through urine sprays, faeces and calls. She is in oestrous for few days and will mate with a male for three days continuously till conception occurs.
After the mating the male separates leaving the female to deliver and rear the cubs. The male is entrusted with guarding the family which does get together once in a while. He may usurp or share the tigresses kill. On rare occasion the family comes together to hunt an share the meals peacefully. The presence of the male who has sired the cubs is important else the rival male would kill the cubs in order to draw the female back into oestrus so as to transfer his genes. This is the law of the jungle the stronger shall prevail.
The cubs are born blind for fourteen days so that the female can hunt after a gestation period of three months. During the pregnancy hunting becomes a tiring task. During the growing period cubs are taught all the ways of life, for survival in the jungle in a difficult terrain. The training period is of two years or less. Once the young tigers are able to fend for themselves they have to separate and carve their own territories. The females do not mate until the grown up cubs separate from her.
The distinct orange brown fur with vertical black stripes accord excellent camouflage to the tiger in its natural habitat. The white ventral belly and underside of legs is common to all tigers. The magnificent fur also makes the animal most beautiful in the wild. The stripe pattern on forehead and sides are the best marks to identify individual animals.
The mane a prominent growth of fur and long whiskers differ between the sex being more prominent in males. The ears are small and rounded and the back contain white spots surrounded by black.
This animal is not a different sub species but it is a result of an allele expression of its recessive gene. This allele dominates in about every ten thousand births and is specific only to the Bengal Tigers.
BTR Tiger Image
Status of the Big Cat
During the past, before the arrival of the British there existed more than one hundred tigers in India. After the arrival of British the wildlife in India virtually underwent a slaughter.
Not only to blame the English Rulers, the erstwhile Maharajahs & Nawabs also indulged in indiscriminate hunting. The worst downfall that wildlife experienced was clearing of the forests and other ecosystems for agriculture.
With continued hunting and destruction of forests, the population was sliding down rapidly. During the turn of the 20th century the number went down from 40000 to few hundreds. Efforts are on to save the big cat from extinction but with continued destruction of forests the task has become difficult.
The formation of Project Tiger and NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) plays an active role in the conservation of the species.
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A blog on Indian Wildlife and tigers. Find photographs of tigers and articles.
Dominant Male Tiger
Ban on Hunting
Tigers in India were killed mercilessly by the hunters, Maharajahs and the British Rulers. Wildlife Protection Act was promulgated in the year 1972. The Act banned hunting of tigers and all life forms, this gave a new lease of life to them in India.
Tiger Distribution Map India
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© 2014 Uday Patel
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