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The Indian Tiger - Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Panthera Tigris
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Estimated Remaining Population in the world: < 3,000

Size and Physical Characteristics: The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest among all the living wild cats of the family Felidae. It has an elongated body, short neck, and compact head with a relatively short muzzle. The legs are stout and the paws are armed with retractile claws. The total body length of an adult male tiger is between 275-290 cm and that of an adult female is 250-260 cm. The adult male tiger weighs 180-260 kg whereas the adult female weighs 100-160 kg.

Tigers have a reddish-brown to rust-brown coat with black stripes and a white underbelly. Variations in coat colouration occur among individuals. White and black tigers are caused by a recessive gene.

Habitat and Distribution:
In India, the tiger is found practically throughout the country, from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, except in Punjab, Kutch and the deserts of Rajasthan. In the northeast, its range extends into Burma. Tigers occupy a variety of habitats including tropical evergreen forests, deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, thorn forests and grass jungles.

Behavioural Characteristics: Tigers are usually solitary, except for females with cubs. They are territorial and males have discrete territories overlapping those of several females. Male territories are mate oriented while those of females are more resource oriented. Tigers use scent (spraying urine on the trees or other vegetation or deposited on a scrape), scratch (marking on tree trunks with claws) and scrape marks on the ground to maintain contact and advertise their presence to others.

Males associate with females for breeding and have been observed with females and cubs when feeding and resting. Although tigers mate and produce cubs throughout the year in India, peak breeding activity is in winter and early summer. During breeding, which lasts about 20 to 30 days, males and females communicate with each other with loud and distinct calls that travel great distances. About 8 different kinds vocalizations have been documented in tigers from the wild.

The gestation period is about three months (90 days). The litter size may vary between 1-6 cubs, but 2-3 cubs are most common. At birth, the tiger cub weighs between 800 - 1500 grams and measures 31 - 40 cm in length. Cubs stay with their mother and siblings until about the age of two when they move on to establish their own territories. During these two years, cubs learn hunting techniques from their mother.

Tigers are well adapted to stalking prey rather than running it down. Tigers primarily hunt at night, between dawn and dusk and usually rest during daytime. On an average, tigers and tigresses without cubs kill once in eight days, whereas a tigress with cubs makes kill almost once every five days. However, the rate of kills depends on the number of successful attempts. The prey is killed mostly by a fatal throat bite causing suffocation, strangulation or severance of blood vessels. Sometimes nose bites are applied to suffocate the animal, when an effective throat bite is not an easy task, mainly in case of larger prey. Small prey is killed by a nape bite resulting in broken neck vertebrae or dislocation of head from vertebral column.

Diet: Tigers are meat eaters. Their diet includes chital, sambar, gaur, barasingha, hog deer, barking deer, nilgai, pigs and cattle. Apart from large prey, tigers are also known to consume birds like peafowl and large rodents like porcupines. They are even known to attack elephants and rhino calves. Tigers in the Sundarbans are known to feed on fish and crabs.

Threats: The tiger population in India is officially estimated to be between 1,571 - 1,875. Many of the tiger populations across the nation, particularly those outside protected reserves, face a variety of threats, including habitat fragmentation, encroachment, and poaching and developmental projects. These problems are directly or indirectly linked to anthropogenic factors.

Decades of scientific research on tigers and their prey have provided us with a set of guidelines to develop and design protected areas to help the species survive. However, these reserves protect only a fraction of tiger habitat, and most are under severe human pressure. In the last few years, tiger poaching has increased dramatically, fueled by illegal trade in tiger body parts.

Large development projects, such as mining, hydroelectric dams and construction of highways are also taking their toll on the tiger's habitat. In the past few years, thousands of square kilometers of forestland have been diverted and destroyed to facilitate such projects. Though mostly outside the protected network, the loss of this vital habitat will have serious repercussions on tiger conservation in India.

WPSI’s Wildlife Crime Database shows 95 tigers are known to have been killed in 1994, 89 tigers were killed in 1997, 36 tigers were killed in 1998, 72 tigers were killed in 2001 and 35 tigers were killed in 2003. These figures, however, are incomplete and represent only a fraction of the actual poaching activity in India.

History: One of the earliest portrayals of the tiger in India is found in the Harappan seals from the Indus valley culture, dating back to 2500 BC, and depicting an intricate association between people and tigers. The rock paintings of Warli tribe, which date back to around 3000 BC, also feature the tiger.

It is believed that tigers evolved in northern China and Far East Asia approximately two million years ago. They then migrated through woodlands and along river systems into southwest Asia. In the south and southeast directions, tigers moved through continental southeast Asia, crossing into the Indonesian islands before they separated from mainland, and finally reached India.

During their evolutionary history, tigers split into eight subspecies. All the subspecies were alive until 1940. However, during the next three decades, three subspecies became extinct.

The five surviving subspecies are:
1. Bengal Tiger - Panthera tigris tigris
2. Siberian (Amurian) Tiger - Panthera tigris altaica
3. Sumatran Tiger - Panthera tigris sumatrae
4. Indo-Chinese Tiger - Panthera tigris corbetti
5. South China Tiger - Panthera tigris amoyensis

The three extinct subspecies are:
1. Javan Tiger - Panthera tigris sondaica - extinct since early 1980’s
2. Bali Tiger - Panthera tigris balica - extinct since the 1940’s
3. Caspian Tiger - Panthera tigris virgata - extinct since the early 1970’s

Conservation: Project Tiger was launched in India in 1973, with the goal of saving the tiger and its habitat in India. With an initial list of 9 Tiger Reserves, this Project went on to cover 28 Tiger Reserves across the country, incorporating an area of 37,761 sq. km. Though this Project tackled various issues over the past 20 years, it had not been able to keep pace with the rapid changes that have changed the tiger landscape and increased human pressures. In 2006, it was replaced by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Despite all these problems, India still holds the best chance for saving the tiger in the wild. Tigers occur in 18 States within the Republic of India, with 10 States reportedly having populations in excess of 100 tigers. There are still areas with relatively large tiger populations and extensive tracts of protected habitat.

We need to make a concerted effort to combat poaching and habitat loss, if this magnificent animal is to survive into the future.

 

 

 

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TIGER NEWS


Speaking For Tigers: A Call to End Asia's Illegal Trade, 2nd July, 2014

China's Threat to Wild Tigers, 28th June, 2014

TIGER DEATHS IN 2014
 Mortality                 46
 Poaching &             
 Seizures                  14
___________________
       Total                   60

TIGER DEATHS IN 2013
 Mortality                  38
 Poaching &              42
 Seizures                   
___________________
       Total                    80


TIGER POACHING 1994-2013

WILDLIFE NEWS


Railways’ jumbo gift to N Bengal: Rs 300 crore for doubling of tracks, 11th July, 2014


Supreme Court issues notice to Salman Khan in black buck hunting case, 10th July, 2014


LEOPARD DEATHS IN 2014
 Mortality               157
 Poaching &             89
 Seizures             
___________________
       Total                  246
     

LEOPARD DEATHS IN 2013
 Mortality               217
 Poaching &           110
 Seizures             
___________________
       Total                 327


LEOPARD POACHING 1994-2013


TIGER RESERVES
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Map 

Bandhavgarh


 
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