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Bengal tiger

November 30, 2017

Bengal tiger

Picture: A Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris in the wild in Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan, India.

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The Bengal tiger ranks among the biggest wild cats alive today and even considered to belong to the world's charismatic megafauna (with elephants, whales etc).

The Bengal tiger is the subspecies with the largest population of all tigers, most of them in India. It arrived at India 12,000 years ago, and today it is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh present even on coins.

 

CC BY-SA 4.0    

Characteristics

The Bengal tiger's coat is yellow to light orange, with stripes ranging from dark brown to black; the belly and the interior parts of the limbs are white, and the tail is orange with black rings. 

Males length: 270 - 310 cm (110 - 120 in)
weigh 180 - 258 kg (397 - 569 lb),
females length: 240 - 265 cm (94 - 104 in)
weigh: 100 - 160 kg (220 - 350 lb).
In northern India and Nepal, the average is larger; males weigh up to 235 kilograms (518 lb), while females average 140 kilograms (310 lb).
Recorded body weights of wild individuals indicate that it is the heaviest subspecies.

The tiger has exceptionally stout teeth.

Its canines are 7.5 to 10 cm (3.0 to 3.9 in) long and thus the longest among all cats.

The image of a tiger's facial marking (Sultan or T72) had been photographed from Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India on 12.10.2014.

CC BY-SA 3.0  Dibyendu Ash

Ecology and behavior

The Bengal tiger leads solitary lives, it's basic social unit is the elemental one of mother and offspring. They like to hunt alone and maintain home ranges. Resident adults of either sex definite area of habitat within which they satisfy their needs, food supply, sufficient water, and shelter.

This location must make it possible for the resident to maintain contact with other tigers, especially those of the opposite sex. Those sharing the same ground are well aware of each other's movements and activities.

The home ranges occupied by adult male residents tend to be mutually exclusive, even though one of these residents may tolerate a transient or sub-adult male at least for a time. A male tiger keeps a large territory in order to include the home ranges of several females within its bounds, so that he may maintain mating rights with them. Spacing among females is less complete. Typically there is partial overlap with neighboring female residents. They tend to have core areas, which are more exclusive, at least for most of the time. Home ranges of both males and females are not stable. The shift or alteration of a home range by one animal is correlated with a shift of another. Shifts from less suitable habitat to better ones are made by animals that are already resident. New animals become residents only as vacancies occur when a former resident moves out or dies. There are more places for resident females than for resident males.

 

Competition

Bengal tigers occasionally hunt and kill predators such as Indian leopard, Indian wolf, Indian jackal, fox, crocodile, Asiatic black bear and sloth bear.

Also, Clashes between tigers and Asiatic lions have been reported. 

Reproduction and lifecycle

In the 1960s, certain aspects of tiger behavior at Kanha National Park indicated that the peak of sexual activity was from November to about February, with some mating probably occurring throughout the year.
Most young are born in December and April.
Males reach maturity at 4–5 years of age, and females at 3–4 years.
A Bengal comes into heat at intervals of about 3–9 weeks and is receptive for 3–6 days.
After a gestation period of 104–106 days, 1–4 cubs are born in a shelter situated in tall grass, thick bush or in caves.
Newborn cubs weigh 780 to 1,600 g (1.72 to 3.53 lb) and they have a thick wooly fur that is shed after 3.5–5 months.
Their eyes and ears are closed. They suckle for 3–6 months, and begin to eat small amounts of solid food at about 2 months of age. At this time, they follow their mother on her hunting expeditions and begin to take part in hunting at 5–6 months of age.
At the age of 2–3 years, they slowly start to separate from the family group and become transient — looking out for an area, where they can establish their own territory.
Young males move further away from their mother's territory than young females. Once the family group has split, the mother comes into heat again.

A male and female interact with each other in Karnataka, India

CC BY 2.0

Paul Mannix - originally posted to Flickr as Bengal tigers, Karnataka, India

Threats

Over the past century, tiger numbers have fallen dramatically, with a decreasing population trend.

None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within the Bengal tiger range is large enough to support an effective population size of 250 individuals.
Habitat losses and the extremely large-scale incidences of poaching are serious threats to the species' survival. The challenge in the Western Ghats forest complex in western South India is that people live within its borders. 

evidence showed that humans and tigers cannot co-exist.

The Save the Tiger Fund Council estimates that 7,500 landless people living illegally inside the boundaries of the 386-square-mile (1,000 km2) Nagarhole National Park in southwestern India.

Poaching

The most significant immediate threat to the existence of wild tiger populations is the illegal trade in poached skins and body parts between India, Nepal, and China. The governments of these countries have failed to implement adequate enforcement response, and wildlife crime remained a low priority in terms of political commitment and investment for years.

There are well-organized gangs of professional poachers, who move from place to place and set up camp in vulnerable areas. Skins are rough-cured in the field and handed over to dealers, who send them for further treatment to Indian tanning centers.
Buyers choose the skins from dealers or tanneries and smuggle them through a complex interlinking network to markets outside India, mainly in China.
Other factors contributing to their loss are urbanization and revenge killing. Farmers blame tigers for killing cattle and shoot them.
Their skins and body parts may, however, become a part of the illegal trade.
In Bangladesh, tigers are killed by professional poachers, local hunters, trappers, pirates, and villagers.
Each group of people has different motives for killing tigers, ranging from profit, excitement to safety concerns. All groups have access to the commercial trade in body parts.
The illicit demand for bones and body parts from wild tigers for use in Traditional Chinese medicine is the reason for the unrelenting poaching pressure on tigers on the Indian subcontinent.
For at least a thousand years, tiger bones have been an ingredient in traditional medicines that are prescribed as a muscle strengthener and treatment for rheumatism and body pain.

Between 1994 and 2009, the Wildlife Protection Society of India has documented 893 cases of tigers killed in India, which is just a fraction of the actual poaching and trade in tiger parts during those years.

 

Human-tiger conflict

The Indian subcontinent has served as a stage for intense human and tiger confrontations.
The region affording habitat where tigers have achieved their highest densities is also one which has housed one of the most concentrated and rapidly expanding human populations.
At the beginning of the 19th-century tigers were so numerous it seemed to be a question as to whether man or tiger would survive.
It became the official policy to encourage the killing of tigers as rapidly as possible, rewards being paid for their destruction in many localities.
The United Provinces supported large numbers of tigers in the submontane Terai region, where man-eating had been uncommon.
In the latter half of the 19th century, marauding tigers began to take a toll of human life.
These animals were pushed into marginal habitat, where tigers had formerly not been known, or where they existed only in very low density. The dispersers had nowhere else to go since the prime habitat was bordered in the south by cultivation.
Tigers in the Sunderbans presumably attacked humans who entered their territories in search of wood, honey or fish, thus causing them to defend their territories. The number of tiger attacks on humans may be higher outside suitable areas for tigers, where numerous humans are present but which contain little wild prey for tigers. 
Between 1999 and 2001, the highest concentration of tiger attacks on people occurred in the northern and western boundaries of the Bangladesh Sundarbans. Most people were attacked in the mornings while collecting fuelwood, timber, or other raw materials, or while fishing.

In Nepal, the incidence of man-eating tigers has been only sporadic. In Chitwan National Park no cases were recorded before 1980. In the following few years, 13 people have been killed and eaten in the park and its environs. In the majority of cases, man-eating appeared to have been related to an intra-specific competition among male tigers.

 

Conservation efforts

In the Himalayan foothills of northern India and southern Nepal, where 11 protected areas.

The goals are to manage tigers as a single metapopulation, the dispersal of which between core refuges can help maintain genetic, demographic, and ecological integrity, and ensure that species and habitat conservation becomes mainstreamed into the rural development agenda. In Nepal, a community-based tourism model has been developed with a strong emphasis on sharing benefits with local people and on the regeneration of degraded forests. The approach has been successful in reducing poaching, restoring habitats, and creating a local constituency for conservation.

WWF partnered with Leonardo DiCaprio to form a global campaign, "Save Tigers Now", with the ambitious goal of building political, financial and public support to double the wild tiger population by 2022.

Save Tigers Now started its campaign in 12 different WWF Tiger priority landscapes, since May 2010.

 


 




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