Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) - wiki
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[Photo] A wild Bengal tiger in India's Bandhavgarh reserve. Source Ramakrishnan. Date May 2006. Author Anant
The Bengal Tiger or Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is a subspecies of tiger primarily found in India,Bangladesh and also in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and in southern Tibet. It is the most common tiger subspecies, and lives in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests and mangroves. Its fur is generally orange-brown with black stripes, although there is a mutation that sometimes produces white tigers, as well as a rare variation (less than 100 known to exist, all in captivity) called the Golden Tabby that has a white coat with golden patches and stripes that are much paler than normal. It is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh.
Male Bengal Tigers measure around 270-310 cm, sometimes up to 360 cm with their tail. The tail of a large male is usually 85-95 cm long. Their weight is normally around 180-275 kilograms (400-600 pounds), average weight 220 kg (485 lbs). The heaviest Bengal Tiger with weighed was 388.7 kgs and was shot in Northern India in 1967. Females are considerably smaller and have an average weight of 141 kg (310 lbs) , but they can reach up to 180 kg (400 lbs). Males have a maximum skull length of 330 to 380 mm females 275 to 311 mm. Jim Corbett once shot a tiger called the Bachelor of Powalgarh, with a total length of 3.23m "over curves", thought to be "as big as a Shetland pony" by the famous hunter Fred Anderson. Pictures of this cat documented that it was indeed a very large tiger.
Life Cycle and Social Structure
Usually solitary, they occasionaly will travel in groups of three or four. The majority of cubs are born between February and May after a pregnancy of three and a half months. Females will have a litter every 2-3 years. The male Bengal Tiger's average lifespan is around 10-12 years and females longer, however, bengal tigers in captivity have known to live up to 30 years of age. Experts recently found out that 25% of male bengal tigers in Kanha national park are killed in fights over female tigers.
In the wild, Bengal Tigers are pure carnivores and hunt medium-sized and large-sized animals, such as wild boar, deer, gaurs and water buffalo. They also prey on smaller animals like hares, monkeys, langurs and peacocks. Some experts have suggested that the Bengal Tiger's favourite food is the chital (sambar deer). Bengal Tigers have also been known to prey on young Asian Elephants and rhino calves in a few documented cases. For instance, the World Wildlife Fund is fostering an orphaned rhino whose mother was killed by a tiger. Famous Indian hunter and naturalist Jim Corbett described an incident where two tigers fought and killed a large bull elephant. The elephant was probably disturbing a mating pair, and that lead to a long fight. The tigers were known not to eat the dead elephant. Bengal Tigers have also been known to take other predators such as leopards, wolves, jackals, foxes, crocodiles and dholes as prey, although these predators are not typically a part of the tiger's diet.
Bengal Tigers prefer to hunt mostly by night, but are awake in the daytime. During the day, the cover of the tall "elephant grass" gives the feline excellent camouflage. Bengals kill prey by overpowering their victim and severing the spinal cord (preferred method for smaller prey), or applying a suffocation bite of the neck for large prey. A Bengal Tiger will usually drag its kill to a safe place to eat. Despite their size, Bengal Tigers can climb trees effectively, but they are not as adept as the smaller leopard, which hides its kills from other predators in the trees. Bengal Tigers are also strong and frequent swimmers, often ambushing drinking or swimming prey or chasing prey that has retreated into water. The Bengal Tiger can consume up to about 30 kg (66 lb) of meat at a time and then go without eating for days. These tigers normally hunt deer or anything above 100 pounds, but when driven to hunger, it will eat anything, such as frogs, fowl, crocodiles, and sometimes humans.
Estimations in 2005 indicate an approximate worldwide population of 4,500 Bengal Tigers: The bulk of the population of about 3000 individuals live in India. There are about 300 tigers living in Bangladesh, about 200 in Nepal, and a small, unknown number in Northwestern Myanmar.
The Bengal Tiger is now strictly protected, and is the national animal of both Bangladesh and India. After the resounding success of the Tiger conservation program in India known as Project Tiger, the population of wild tigers has increased dramatically. The tiger population of India is officially estimated to have reached about 3,500, up from 1,200 in the 1970s. In the Sundarbans, a 2004 census found the presence of about 280 Tigers on the Bangladesh side.
But since the early 1990s, the tiger population has suffered a setback due to habitat destruction and the large scale poaching of these animals for their skins and bones. The Indian government is trying hard to show the world that the tiger is thriving in India, often using controversial techniques like taking moulds of paw prints to track tiger populations. It was recently discovered that tigers were wiped out from one of Project Tiger's leading sanctuaries, Sariska, much to the embarrassment of the government.
The current population of wild bengal tigers in Indian subcontinent is now estimated to be around 1300-1500. which is less than half of the previous estimation of 3000-4500 tigers. This estimation is based on the recent state-by-state cenus conducted in India on Early August this year.
Habitat loss and poaching are important threats to species survival. Poachers kill tigers not only for their pelts, but also for components to make various traditional East Asian medicines. Other factors contributing to their loss are urbanization and revenge killing. Farmers blame tigers for killing cattle and will shoot them. Poachers also kill tigers for their bones and teeth to make medicines that are alleged to provide the tiger's strength.
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