They are the symbols of royalty, strength and beauty and are the national animals of India. We are definitely talking about tigers. Currently, they are in the category of endangered animals, as they have been hunted by humans on a large scale for their amazing fur, which makes a larger sum of money and their claws and teeth are the decoration elements. The mass slaughter of their beautiful animal has decreased their populations to the point that they are on the brink of extinction. There are many wildlife reserves, national parks around the world to save this graceful animal from extinction.
The scientific name of the tiger is Tiger panther and belongs to the Chordata phylum and Mammalia class. The order Carnivora and the family Felidae form the complete direction of the tiger. The tiger is native to South and East Asia and is a predator and obligate carnivorous animal. The average body size of an adult tiger is 3.3 m and its body weight can be 300 kg. Tigers can be easily identified by the presence of dark vertical stripes on the orange-white fur and lighter underparts. The subspecies that included the largest tiger population is the Bengal tiger and the largest tiger subspecies is the Siberian tiger. They are very well adapted to their habitats and can be found readily available in the Siberian taiga, open grasslands, and mangroves. They make their own territories and love to live alone and hunt a wide variety of animals for food. When their prey is scarce, they do not hesitate to attack humans as well. Of the nine subspecies of modern tigers, three are completely extinct and the remaining six share the category of endangered animals. Hunting and fragmentation are the main causes of population reduction. Tigers are the most popular and charismatic mega fauna in the world.
The word tiger has its origin in the Greek word tigris which means arrow and refers to the speed of this animal. Tigers were distributed in Asia from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Siberia and Indonesia in the past. During the 19th century, these animals became extinct in western Asia and were confined to a small pocket in adjacent areas. Currently, the only island that offers refuge to the largest number of tigers is Sumatra. The tiger population is also present in India, China, and Southeast Asia. Borneo is famous for hosting only the fossils of tigers. Tigers prefer to live in areas where there is sufficient green cover, an abundance of prey, and available water resources. Bengal tigers have a wide range of habitats. They inhabit moist, evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of Assam, mangrove forests of the Ganges Delta, deciduous forests of Nepal and thorn forests of the Western Ghats. They are good swimmers and enjoy playing in cold water and can swim up to 4 miles continuously.
Tigers are believed to have evolved from a cat-like tiger Panthera palaeosinensis whose remains have been found in China and Java. These cats are believed to have been present two million years ago in the Pleistocene and were smaller than modern tigers. The earliest true tiger fossils are believed to be between 1.6 and 1.8 million years old. Tigers are the most beautiful among all members of the cat family. They have rusty reddish to rusty brown fur coats with a white underparts and a tint of white surrounding the face and streaks of black or dark brown on the rusty reddish fur. The number of stripes varies by subspecies, but each tiger has an average of about 100 stripes. The stripe pattern is characteristic of each subspecies of tiger and is used for the identification of the subspecies. The striped body acts as a camouflage weapon and helps the tiger to remain invisible in close proximity to the prey and helps to easily catch the prey with less effort. Tigers have a white patch on the back of their ears called ocelli that acts as a social symbol and is found on all big cats. The tigers’ other demarcated characters include heavily built legs and shoulders like those of lions that help them grasp and pull prey heavier and larger than their own bodies. Body size and weight differ by species. Tigers are always smaller than males and males are generally 1.7 times larger compared to females. This distinction is present in all subspecies of tigers. The tiger skull closely resembles that of the lion with certain differences including a longer postorbital region.
There are currently nine subspecies of tigers that are recognized of which three are totally extinct. These include the Bengal tiger or the royal tiger, the Indochinese tiger, the Malay tiger, the Sumatran tiger, the Siberian tiger, and the South China tiger. These are the species of tigers that are present today and are looking for means to increase in numbers equivalent to those that occurred in the past. In 1977, the Chinese government passed a law to ban mass slaughter of this royal animal, but it was too late and few subspecies had already faced extinction. Extinct tiger subspecies include the Bali tiger, the Javanese tiger, and the Caspian tiger. Tiger hybridization began in the 19th century when lions and tigers interbred and the resulting offspring were called ligers and tigons. This practice was first tested in zoos and is under strict control of the Chinese government. Liger is the result of the cross between the male lion and the tigress and the tigon is the result of the cross between the male tiger and the lioness.
The white tiger is the result of a known genetic mutation called the albinistic chinchilla. White tigers are actually rare in the wild and are raised in zoos due to their popularity. White tiger breeding can also be responsible for inbreeding. The white tiger is not actually a subspecies, but the result of color variation, particularly in Bengal tigers, with only one white tiger occurring for every 10,000 live births. The carrier gene for this type of mutation is a recessive gene and is carried by either parent. Another type of recessive genetic mutation is responsible for the birth of golden tabby tigers that have light golden fur, pale yellow legs, and very faint orange stripes. The population of golden tabby tigers is only 30.
Tigers are actually solitary animals but they have well-marked territories. The range of their territories depends on the availability of prey and the access of the females. The territory of the tigress can vary up to 20 square kilometers, but the males have larger territories that can extend up to 60-100 square kilometers. When a young tigress makes her territory, she prefers an area close to her mother’s territory, while young males prefer to make their territories in areas devoid of any other males. The males are very violent and often fight over the females. Terrible and violent fights occur between males, especially when the female is in heat and the death of the weaker opponent can also result in such a fight. Tigers mark their territories by spraying urine, anal gland secretion, and feces as well. They also roar to defend their territories. Tigers generally feed on large and medium-sized animals including the chital, gaur, sambar, deer, wild boar, and buffalo. Sometimes they also hunt leopards, pythons to get their food. Old or injured tigers that cannot hunt often prey on humans like the Sunderbans tigers in India are man-eaters. Tigers also feed on vegetation for their dietary fiber and fiber from the Slow Match tree is highly favored. Tigers prefer to hunt at night alone or in groups and run at a speed of 30 to 40 miles per hour. Out of twenty hunts, only one results in the kill of the prey. When hunting larger animals, they tend to grab the throat with the help of the forelimbs and the prey is killed by strangulation. While feeding on smaller animals, they bite the nape of the neck, break the spinal cord, or often pierce the spinal cord.
Mating in tigers can occur throughout the tearing, but the most preferred months are November and April. Females are receptive only for a short duration and within this duration mating must take place. A mating pair copulates very frequently and noisily like other cats and the gestation period is 16 weeks. The number of offspring produced can be from 3 to 4 and each weighs 1 kg, blind and defenseless. The tigress participates in the care of the little ones and the father does not participate in the care of the parents. After five months, the tigress will give birth to another set of litters if the previous ones are lost. The little ones, after 8 weeks, come out of the den and are ready to follow their mother. There is only one dominant puppy of both sexes in the litter. The cubs remain with their mother until they are two and a half years old. Females reach maturity at the age of 3-4 years and males at the age of 4-5 years. Throughout her life, the female gives birth to an equal number of male and female cubs.
The mass killing of tigers for skins and the destruction of their natural habitat are responsible for the decline of the tiger population. According to the report, at the beginning of the 20th century, the total population of 100,000 tigers dropped to just 2,000 in the wild. India is believed to be home to the largest tiger population in the world. According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund, of the 3,500 tigers in the world, 1,400 are found in India. A large project titled Project Tiger was started in 1973 with the efforts of Indira Gandhi to save this royal animal and is running successfully to this day. Many national parks have already been established in India for the conservation of tigers. Not just in India, but around the world, steps are being taken to save this beautiful animal from extinction.
Tigers are the symbol of strength and they are the source of terror. However, they seem dangerous but they beautify our jungles. Come, let’s save our tigers from extinction.