Bengal TigerThe Bengal Tiger or Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris or Panthera tigris bengalensis) is a subspecies of tiger primarily found in Bangladesh, India and also in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and in southern Tibet. It is the second largest and 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. It is the national animal of India& Bangladesh.
Physical characteristicsMale Bengal Tigers measure 275–310 cm (sometimes up to 360 cm) with their tail. The tail of a large male is usually 85–95 cm long. Their weight ranges from 180 to 270 kilograms (400-594 pounds), with an average weight of 200–236 kg (440–520 lb). The heaviest Bengal Tiger ever reported was 389.5 kg and measured 320 cm between shoulders. This tiger was shot in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India, in 1967 by David Hasinger and is the heaviest tiger with reliable source. However, according to Mazak, the occurrence of those exceptional large tigers is debatable and not confirmed via reliable references.Females are considerably smaller and have an average weight of 141 kg (310 lb), but they can reach up to 180 kg (400 lb). 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 3.23 m "over curves" (3.10 m between shoulders), 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.
The fur of this subspecies 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 as a white coat with golden patches and stripes that are much paler than normal.
DietBengal Tigers hunt medium-sized and large-sized animals, such as wild boar, sambar, barasingha, chital, nilgai, gaur and water buffalo. They sometimes prey on smaller animals like hares, monkeys, langurs or peacocks and carrion is also readily taken. Bengal Tigers have also been known to prey on young Asian Elephants and rhino calves in rare 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. 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 throat for large prey. A Bengal Tiger will usually drag its kill to a safe place to eat away from possible predators. 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, domestic livestock and sometimes humans.
Population and ConservationEstimations in 2005 indicate an approximate worldwide population of 4,500 Bengal Tigers: The bulk of the population of about 3000 individuals live in India and Bangladesh. There are 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 Bangladesh . 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 Bangladesh is officially estimated to have reached about 3,500 ( unverified), up from 1,200 in the 1970s. In the Sunderbans, a 2004 census found the presence of about 280 Tigers on the India side & 500 tigers in 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 Bangladeshi government is trying hard to show the world that the tiger is thriving in Bangladesh, often using controversial techniques like taking molds 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 Indian 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 Bangladesh 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. The hunting for Chinese medicine and fur is the biggest cause of decline of the tigers. In India, retired Indian Army personnel are being recruited to save the Bengal Tiger from poaching gangs.
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