Bengal tiger

Bengal tiger

name = Bengal Tiger
status =

image_caption = A Bengal Tiger in India's Bandhavgarh reserve.
image_width = 280px
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Carnivora
familia = Felidae
genus = "Panthera"
species = "P. tigris"
subspecies = "P. t. tigris"
trinomial = "Panthera tigris tigris"
trinomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1758)

The 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 Nepal,Pakistan, Bhutan, Myanmar and southern Tibet. [cite web | title=Most numerous tiger pushed out of its home | url= | publisher= World Wide Fund for Nature| accessdate=2007-04-30] It has traditionally been considered the second largest subspecies after the Siberian tiger, but Northern Bengal Tigers are often larger than Siberian tigers. So far the heaviest Bengal tigers captured in Nepal for research have been heavier than recently captured Siberian tigers. [ [ Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)] ] It is the most common tiger subspecies, living in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests, and mangroves. The Bengal subspecies "P. tigris tigris" is the national animal of Bangladesh, while at the species level the Tiger "Panthera tigris" is the national animal of India [ [ National Animal- "Panthera tigris"] Govt. of India website.] .

Physical characteristics

Male Bengal tigers usually measure 275–310 cm (9-10 ft)Vratislav Mazak: "Der Tiger". Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983.Westarp Wissenschaften Hohenwarsleben, 2004 ISBN 3 894327596] with their tail. The tail of a large male is usually 85–95 cm long. Their mass ranges from 180 to 273 kilograms (400-600 pounds), with an average mass of 200–235 kg (440–517 lb)Vratislav Mazak: "Der Tiger". Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983. Westarp Wissenschaften Hohenwarsleben, 2004 ISBN 3 894327596] . The heaviest Bengal tiger ever reported was 389.5 kg (857 lb)and measured 323 cm (10.6 ft) between pegs. This tiger was shot in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India, in 1967 by David Hasinger and is the heaviest tiger with reliable source. [Wood, The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. Sterling Pub Co Inc (1983), ISBN 978-0851122359] However, according to Mazak, the occurrence of those exceptional large tigers is debatable and not confirmed via reliable references. Records of even larger tigers exist, with the largest reported bengal tiger weighing in at 410kg although this is not confirmed and thus not reliable. Females are considerably smaller and have an average mass of 141 kg (310 lb), but they can reach up to 180 kg [Sunquist, Mel and Fiona Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago] (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 pegs), thought to be "as big as a Shetland pony" by the famous hunter Fred Anderson. [ Vratislav Mazák: "Panthera tigris". MAMMALIAN SPECIES NO. 152, pp. 1–8, 3 figs. Published 8 May 1981 by The American Society of Mammalogists [ PDF] ] 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.


Bengal tigers hunt small-sized and large-sized animals, such as wild boar, barasingha, chital, nilgai, gaur, water buffalo, Domestic Water Buffalo,Rhinoceros, foxes, and they also feed on fish and other animals. They sometimes prey on smaller animals such as 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, Asiatic Black Bears, Sloth bears, and dholes as prey, although these predators are not typically a part of the tiger's diet.

It is said that the Bengal tiger almost always preys on smaller animals such as deer and boarBy whom, but this is incorrect, though, since it is a solitary hunter, it needs to be very strong to enable it to take down large prey such as gaur and water buffaloDubious. Bengal tigers prefer to hunt mostly by day, but are awake in the nighttime. 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. [cite news | title=Bengal Tiger| url=| publisher=National Geographic | accessdate=2007-05-01] 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. Bengal Tigers are apex predators and have no natural predators outside of man


Since the early 1990s the tiger population has begun to decline again, due to habitat destruction and large-scale poaching for tiger 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 have been wiped out from one of Project Tiger's leading sanctuaries, Sariska.

The current population of wild Bengal tigers in the Indian subcontinent is now estimated to be between 1,300 and 1,500 [cite news | title= Bengal tiger population re-estimated | url=| publisher=Yahoo News |date=August 4 2007| accessdate=2007-08-04] , which is less than half of the previous estimate of 3,000-4,500 tigers. This estimate is based on a state-by-state census conducted in India in 2001.

Habitat loss and poaching are important threats to species survival. Poachers kill tigers not only for their pelts, but also for body parts used 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.

Genetic pollution in wild Bengal tigers

Tara, a hand-reared supposedly Bengal tigress acquired from Twycross Zoo in England in July 1976, was trained by Billy Arjan Singh and reintroduced to the wild in Dudhwa National Park, India with the permission of India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in an attempt to prove the experts wrong that zoo-bred hand-reared tigers can ever be released in the wild with success. In the 1990s some tigers from Dudhwa were observed which had the typical appearance of Siberian tigers: white complexion, pale fur, large head and wide stripes. With recent advances in science it was subsequently found that Siberian tigers genes have polluted the otherwise pure Bengal tiger gene pool of Dudhwa National Park. It was proved later that Twycross Zoo had been irresponsible and maintained no breeding records and had given India a hybrid Siberian-Bengal Tigress instead. Dudhwa tigers constitute about 1% of India's total wild population, but the possibility exists of this genetic pollution spreading to other tiger groups; at its worst, this could jeopardize the Bengal tiger as a distinct subspecies [ [ Indian tiger isn't 100 per cent “swadeshi (Made in India)”; by PALLAVA BAGLA; Indian Express Newspaper; November 19 1998] ] [ [ Tainted Royalty, WILDLIFE: ROYAL BENGAL TIGER, A controversy arises over the purity of the Indian tiger after DNA samples show Siberian tiger genes. By Subhadra Menon. INDIA TODAY, November 17 1997] ] [ [ The Tale of Tara, 4: Tara's Heritage from Tiger Territory website] ] [ [ Genetic pollution in wild Bengal tigers, Tiger Territory website] ] [ [ Interview with Billy Arjan Singh: Dudhwa's Tiger man, October 2000, Sanctuary Asia Magazine,] ] [ [ Mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence among big cats and their hybrids by Pattabhiraman Shankaranarayanan* and Lalji Singh*, *Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Uppal Road, Hyderabad 500 007, India, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, CCMB Campus, Uppal Road, Hyderabad 500 007, India] ] [ [ Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), Government of India] ] [ [ "Indians Look At Their Big Cats' Genes", Science, Random Samples, Volume 278, Number 5339, Issue of 31 October 1997, 278: 807 (DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5339.807b) (in Random Samples),The American Association for the Advancement of Science] ] [ [ BOOKS By & About Billy Arjan Singh] ] [ [ Book - Tara : The Cocktail Tigress/Ram Lakhan Singh. Edited by Rahul Karmakar. Allahabad, Print World, 2000, xxxviii, 108 p., ills., $22. ISBN 81-7738-000-1. A book criticizing Billy Arjan Singh's release of hand reared hybrid Tigress Tara in the wild at Dudhwa National Park in India] ] .

Re-wilding project in South Africa

There is a Bengal tiger rewilding project started by John Varty in 2000. This project involves bringing captive-bred zoo Bengal tiger cubs, and for them to be trained by their human trainers so that the tigers can regain their predatory instincts. Once they prove that they can sustain themselves in the wild, they would be released into the wilderness of Africa to fend for themselves. Their trainers, John Varty and Dave Salmoni (Big Cat trainer and zoologist), have to teach them how to stalk, hunt, and most importantly to associate hunting with food. It is claimed that two bengal tigers have already succeeded in re-wilding and two more tigers are currently undergoing their re-wilding training. This project is featured by The Discovery Channel as a documentary, "Living With Tigers". It was voted one of the best Discovery Channel documentaries in 2003.

A strong criticism about this project is with the chosen cubs. Experts state that the four tigers (Ron, Julie, Seatao and Shadow) involved in the rewilding project are not purebred Bengal tigers and should not be used for breeding. The four tigers are not recorded in the Bengal tiger Studbook and should not be deemed as purebred Bengal tigers. Many tigers in the world's zoos are genetically impure and there is no reason to suppose these four are not among them. [ [ Releasing Captive Tigers - South Africa ] ] The 1997 International Tiger Studbook lists the current global captive population of Bengal tigers at 210 tigers. All of the studbook-registered captive population is maintained in Indian zoos, except for one female Bengal tiger in North America. [ [ Save The Tiger Fund | Bengal Tiger ] ] It is important to note that Ron and Julie (2 of the tigers) were bred in the USA and hand-raised at Bowmanville Zoo in Canada [ [ Ron and Julie, Living with Tigers, Tiger Canyons, John Varty ] ] , while Seatow and Shadow are two tigers bred in South Africa. [ [ Seatao and Shadow, Tiger Canyons, John Varty ] ]

The tigers in the Tiger Canyons Project have recently been confirmed to be crossbred Siberian/Bengal tigers. Tigers that are not genetically pure are not allowed to be released into the wild and will not be able to participate in the tiger Species Survival Plan which aims to breed genetically pure tiger specimens and individuals. [ Purrrfect Breed? ] ] In short, these tigers do not have any genetic value.

The documentary has been proven to be a fraud. [] The Tigers are unable to hunt and film crew chased the prey up against the fence and into the path of the tigers just for the sake of dramatic footage. Cory Meacham, a US-based environmental journalist mentioned that "the film has about as much to do with tiger conservation as a Disney cartoon." In addition, the tigers have not been released - and indeed still reside in a small enclosure under constant watch and with frequent human contact. The Discovery documentary contains footage which its maker, John varty, has admitted on affidavit to be false. Conservationists fear that public will be misled in this cynical fashion. [] The project was never about Conservation, it was for good tv and for money.

Using technology to save Tigers in India

The WII estimates showed that tiger numbers had fallen in Madhya Pradesh by 61%, Maharashtra by 57%, and Rajasthan by 40%. Compare this with the government's first tiger census; conducted under the Project Tiger initiative, begun in 1973, it counted 1,827 tigers in the country that year. Since then the tiger population saw a steady rise to reach 3,700 tigers in 2002. Use of technology has effectively curtailed the numbers by half.

Tiger scientists in India like Raghu Chundavat and Ulhas Karanth have faced lot of backlash from the forest department. Both these scientists have been for years calling for use of technology in the conservation efforts. For instance, Raghu, in the past, had been involved with radio telemetry, i.e., collaring the tigers. Ulhas has been instrumental in using camera traps. Even the project to map all the forest reserves in India has not been completed yet, though the Ministry of Environment and Forests had sanctioned Rs. 13 million for the same in March 2004.

A recent article written by Shashwat DC and published in the Dataquest Magazine, talks about the issue in complete detail [] . In the story noted Wildlife expert, George Schaller has been quoted as saying:

India has to decide whether it wants to keep the tiger or not. It has to decide if it is worthwhile to keep its National Symbol, its icon, representing wildlife. It has to decide if it wants to keep its natural heritage for future generations, a heritage more important than the cultural one, whether we speak of its temples, the Taj Mahal, or others, because once destroyed it cannot be replaced. If the answer is yes, then plans can be made and implemented.

ee also

* Project Tiger, India
* White tiger
* Black tiger
* Save China's Tigers


External links

* [ Information Resources on Tigers, Panthera tigris: Natural History, Ecology, Conservation, Biology, and Captive Care, AWIC Resource Series No. 34, April 2006, Compiled by: Jean Larson, Animal Welfare Information Center, USDA, ARS, NAL, 10301 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA. E-mail:]
* [ All about Bengal tigers from Save The Tiger Fund]
* [ Sundarbans Tiger Project] Research and Conservation of tigers in the largest remaining mangrove forest in the world.
* [ Cat Specialist Group on Bengal Tigers]
* [ Tiger Facts]
* [ Discovery Channel website quoting critics of the Tiger Canyons Project (South Africa)]
* [ Chinese Tigers Learn Hunting, Survival Skills in Africa, Leon Marshall in Johannesburg for National Geographic News, March 2 2005. (An absurd example being given to India regarding safeguarding her Bengal tigers by China. Chinese demand for tiger bones and meat for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM has led to severe decline in Bengal tiger population in India through large scale illegal poaching)]
* [ 21st Century Tiger]

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