An image of the Royal Bengal Tiger was found on a seal dating to 2500 BC, shows that animal inhabited the North western parts of India during the Indus Valley Civilization.
Why should I be aware of this?
- A carnivore and primary predator, the tiger is at the top of the forest ecosystem and food chain.
- Of the eight original subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 60 years, an average of one every 20 years.
- All remaining tigers live in small, isolated populations in widely scattered reserves.
All about tigers
Tigers are the only large cats with stripes. The colour and appearance of the tiger vary according to place. While tigers living in cold regions are paler in colour and larger in size and have long thick fur, those in the warmer climates are smaller in size and more colourful with shorter, thinner fur. So while the Siberian tiger is yellowish-brown, the Indian tiger is reddish-brown. Both have very dark stripes.
The Siberian tiger is the largest amongst the family of tigers. Tigers are heavy with the male weighing around 500 pounds and the female around 300 pounds.
Its long length and short height gives it immense speed. At full running speed tigers reach up to 60 kilometres per hour. The tail gives the tiger extra balance while running. It is also used for communicating with other tigers.
Tigers are fully grown at 3-4 years of age. The average length of the male tiger is 10 feet while that of the female is 8 feet. Most tigers are around 3 feet tall. Like all cats, tigers have sharp claws and teeth.
Tigers have a white spot on the back of both ears, which looks like eyes. This tricks predators into thinking the tiger is looking at them. This is why they are called 'eye spots. Tigers average a large kill every eight days or so, consuming more than 50 prey animals a year. In a single night, they can eat 27 kg (60 lb) of meat.
The declining population of tigers
There were over 100,000 tigers in the 1900s. The number dwindled to 4000 in 1970s when alarm bells rang. People launched tiger conservation projects to save the tiger. There are a critically endangered species with three of the right already becoming extinct.
In the 1930s, the Bali tiger was the first to become extinct. In 1970s the Caspian tiger was forced into extinction followed by the Javan tiger in the 1980s.
The total of all the wild populations of the five remaining subspecies (Bengal tigers, IndoChinese tigers, Siberian tigers, South China tigers, and Sumatran tigers) is an estimated 4,600 and 7,700 tigers.
The tiger population of the Indian subcontinent has suffered a serious decline in the last 50 years. It is estimated that only 200 tigers are there in Nepal, and only 4,000 in India, up from 2,000 in the 1970s. In the 1990s, poaching has escalated in China and Korea, in spite of the Chinese ban on tiger products in 1993.
Cause of endangerment
Humans have single handedly wiped out the tiger. Over the years, tigers have been trapped, poisoned and hunted heavily by humans. They were hunted for
- Eliminating the threat to livestock
- Sport -- Tiger hunting was a sport till half a decade ago. tigers were hunted for their skin, to show their valour and as a trophy.
- Tiger skin
- Medicine -- Many of the remedies suggested by the Traditional Chinese Medicine used tiger bones and parts.
- Superstition -- Necklets of tiger claws are thought to protect a child from "the evil eye"; tiger whiskers are considered either a dreadful poison (in Malaysia), a powerful aphrodisiac (in Indonesia), or an aid to childbirth (in India and Pakistan); the bones, fat, liver and penis of a tiger are prized as medicines.
- Human wildlife conflict -- Humans have also altered the natural habitats of tigers by their destruction and encroachment on the tigers' feeding range; humans are destroying their habitats by cutting down trees, moving into their preferred locations, polluting the water and air, and hunting their prey. Where public land is degraded, people slip into reserves to graze animals, collect firewood, and kill the tiger's prey. Living near reserves takes a toll on people, too. Park animals destroy crops, tigers kill livestock--and, sometimes, people.
Besides humans tigers face danger from large buffaloes, elephants and bears. However, it is able to defend itself reasonably well against them with the help of its large claws and very powerful teeth. Moreover, tigers are excellent swimmers and climbers, which save them from floods and other disasters, as well as protect them from their enemies. The tiger is a very cautious animal; it doesn't like to hunt elephants or larger animals than itself, unless it is very hungry, or if its cubs or itself were attacked.
- Tiger stripes are like fingerprints. No two are the same. The stripes are not only in the tiger's fur, but are a pigmentation of the skin.
- Tigers never live too far from water.
- Tigers are solitary hunters, stalking and then killing in a blinding flash. Without cover, the stealthy approach does not work.
- At the current rate of poaching and habitat loss, it is estimated that tigers in the wild could completely disappear within the next ten years.
- Bengal Tigers are native to India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
- The tendons in a tiger's leg are so strong that it has been known to remain standing after it has been shot dead.
- Tigers have two noses. A secondary scent gland called 'Jacobson's organ' is located in the tigers mouth and assists it in identifying other scents.