India is home to a variety of big cat species like the Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, The Jungle Cat, The Golden Cat, Leopard Cat, Desert Cat, The Lynx, The Caracal, Pallas Cat and more. Below in this post, we covered the 4 most popular big cat of India. Find facts about the royal Bengal tiger, Asiatic lion, Indian leopard and snow leopard. Read about their distribution and habitat, diet, and threats and conservation. You can explore some of our best big cats of India wildlife safari tours below.

 

1. Royal Bengal Tiger

About Bengal Tiger

The Bengal tiger, often known as the Royal Bengal Tiger or the Indian tiger, has the greatest population of any subspecies of tiger. The Bengal tiger’s morphology is both gorgeous and intimidating. It’s a mammal with powerful legs, strong fangs and jaws, and a distinctive colouring pattern on its coat. These felines’ coats are helpful for camouflage, although they vary from individual to individual.

Males tend to be bigger and heavier than females. The former has a length of 106-122 inches, including the tail, while the latter has a length of 94 to 104 inches. Only the tail measures 33 to 43 inches in length. Males weigh between 400 and 550 pounds, while females weigh between 220 and 353 pounds.

Explore our popular Tiger Safari Tours in India.

 

royal bengal tiger - big cats of india

 

Distribution and population

The Bengal tigers’ biggest numbers are in India, although there are also minor populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. It’s also possible that it’s present in parts of China and Burma. In 2021, the National Tiger Conservation Authority estimates that there are 2967 tigers left in India. Bangladesh has an estimated population of 300–500 tigers.

 

Feeding

When witnessing the Bengal tiger’s hunting prowess, it’s clear that it’s a powerful animal. This carnivore hunts for medium to big food, primarily ungulate animals. Gaur, water buffalo, sambar, chital or mottled deer, wild boar, and other deer species dominate their diet. They occasionally eat small prey such as rabbits and porcupines, and they may even attack domestic livestock as a result of habitat invasion. Bengal tigers may eat up to 40 kg of food in a single sitting, though they normally eat much less.

 

Threats & Conservation

Poaching and territorial conflicts with humans are the two most serious threats to this species. The goal of tiger poaching is to illegally sell tiger items such as decorative trinkets or the active ingredient in “drugs” that claim to heal various diseases but haven’t been demonstrated to work. Their habitat has been badly destroyed by logging, and the number of humans invading their territory continues to decrease. When tigers attack domestic animals or even humans, they provoke people’s rage, who kill them in vengeance.

Fortunately, India began to build tiger reserves in the 1970s under “Project Tiger”, which helped to stabilize the tiger population. The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 also gives the government the authority to implement conservation measures.

 

Best Destinations for Bengal tiger safari in India

Corbett National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, and Pench and Panna National Parks are some of the most popular national parks/tiger reserves for tiger safari in India.

 

Best time to see tigers in India

The best months to see tigers in India are probably February, March, and April. The ‘green’ season runs from October until the end of December. The parks become lush and green after the monsoons, with water-filled portions of land creating stunning vistas.

 

2. Asiatic Lion

About Asiatic Lion in India

The Asiatic lion is a Panthera leo species that can only be found in India today. Its range has been restricted to Gir National Park and the neighbouring areas in the Indian state of Gujarat since the turn of the twentieth century. It once occupied much of the Middle East and northern India.

Asiatic lions are a fraction of the size of African lions. Males weigh between 160 and 190 kg, while females range between 110 and 120 kg. At the shoulders, I’m around 3.5 feet tall (110 cm). A male Asiatic lion’s largest recorded overall length, including the tail, is 2.92m (115 inches).

Explore our popular Tiger, Lion and Leopard Photographic Safari Tour here.

 

asiatic lion - big cats of india

 

Distribution & Population

Asiatic lions were historically found as far east as West Bengal and as far west as Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, in central India. At the moment, the Asiatic lion’s only home is Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.

An estimating exercise in June 2020 found 674 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region, up 29 percent over the 2015 census result.

 

Feeding

Deer, wild boar, and antelope are among the large and small mammal prey eaten by Asiatic lions. Domestic cattle have also been observed feeding on the species.

 

Threats & Conservation

Poaching and habitat fragmentation are two of the most common hazards to lions. The Gir Protected Area is bisected by three major roads and a railway track (PA). In addition, the PA contains three significant temples that draw a great number of pilgrims, especially at various periods of the year. The lion population has risen, and more than 200 lions now reside outside the PA. Though the level of conflict is currently low, it is likely to rise in the future as people’s lifestyles and attitudes change. There have also been reports of lions drowning in the Gir PA’s unsecured wells. The Asiatic lion is threatened by genetic inbreeding as a result of a single population in a single location.

 

Best Destinations for Asiatic lion sightings in India

At the moment, the Asiatic lion’s only home is Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat, India.

 

Best time to see Asiatic lions in India

October through June is the greatest season to see Asiatic lions in India

 

3. Leopard

About Indian Leopard

Along with the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, snow leopard, and clouded leopard, the Indian leopard is one of the big cats found in the Indian subcontinent.

Indian Leopards are solitary predators that stay well-hidden at night but emerge from the trees to hunt during the day. They are more likely to haul their kills up trees where they coexist with rival predators such as Bengal Tigers, Striped Hyenas, and Dhole. They are opportunistic hunters with huge heads and powerful jaw muscles, adapted for strength rather than speed, and designed to kill medium-sized herbivores.

Explore our popular Leopard Trail to Satpura & Pench Tour here

 

indian leopard - big cats of india

 

Distribution & Population

The Indian leopard is a subspecies of leopard that is found throughout the Indian subcontinent. Panthera pardus fusca, the Indian subspecies, is found in all forested habitats across the country, with the exception of arid deserts and areas above the timberline in the Himalayas. They are sympatric with snow leopards (Panthera uncia) up to 5,200 metres in the Himalayas.

In 2018, forest officials calculated the number of leopards in India’s tiger range states. At the time, there were 12,852 leopards in the country. The number of leopards counted in 2015 was up from 7,910 in 2014.

 

Feeding

The Indian Leopard’s diet consists primarily of chital, sambar, and langur species, but they are also known to prey on Spotted Deer, Nilai, Wild Pig, cow, hare, dog, and porcupine.

 

Threats & Conservation

India has an estimated 12,000-14,000 leopards, and the population is the most genetically diverse/outbred of all the Asian subspecies. However, poaching for skins and body parts for the illicit wildlife trade has had a significant impact on the population; between 1994 and 2010, more than 3,000 leopards were poached in India.

According to the most recent IUCN assessment, which classifies all leopard subspecies as Vulnerable, the Indian Leopard population may now number less than 10,000 mature individuals.

 

Best Destinations for leopard sightings in India

Jawai Leopard Reserve – Pali, Rajasthan, Jhalana Leopard Safari Park – Jaipur, Rajasthan, Satpura National Park – Madhya Pradesh, Bandipur National Park – Karnataka are some of the best leopard safari destinations in India.

 

Best time to see leopards in India

The optimum time to go on a leopard safari in India is from September to February.

 

4. Snow Leopard

About Snow Leopard

Snow leopards are medium-sized cats that stand around 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 30-55 kilogrammes. Their beautiful smoky-grey fur is patterned with dark-grey to black rosettes that help them blend in with the rocky terrain. They are the highest predator on land and the only cat that does not roar. They also have the longest tail in proportion to their body length, which they employ to keep themselves balanced and warm by wrapping it around their bodies.

Explore our popular Big Cats of India Safari Expedition Tour and Snow Leopard Tour to Kibber here.

 

snow leopard - big cats of india

 

Distribution & Population

Snow leopards can be found in central and southern Asia’s hilly regions. Their geographical range in India includes the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim in the western Himalayas, as well as Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.

Snow leopards love rocky outcrops and ravines in steep, mountainous terrain. This type of habitat provides them with plenty of cover and a clear view of their prey, allowing them to sneak up on them. They can be found in the Himalayas at heights of 3,000-5,000 metres or higher.

The stunningly beautiful snow leopard is still one of the world’s most mysterious cats. Because this roaming, high-altitude cat is so secretive, precise population estimates are difficult to come by, while estimates for India range from 450 to 500 individuals.

 

Feeding

Snow leopards have the ability to kill animals three times their own body weight. They consume blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas, deer, and other small mammals.

 

Threats & Conservation

The habitat of the snow leopard is being increasingly boxed in, degraded, and fragmented as humans continue to push further into alpine areas with their cattle. Overgrazing has harmed the fragile high-altitude grasslands, leaving less food for the snow leopard’s main prey, wild sheep and goats. It is a severe threat to snow leopards’ long-term survival.

Poaching for their pelts is another serious threat to snow leopard conservation. The use of their bones and other body parts in traditional Asian medicine is also in demand.

The snow leopard population is declining, the government and wildlife organizations are doing their part to control poaching activities but this alone is not enough for the conservation of this beautiful cat.

 

Best Destinations for snow leopard sightings in India

Snow leopards can be found in central and southern Asia’s hilly regions. Their geographical range in India includes the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim in the western Himalayas, as well as Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.

 

Best time to see snow leopards in India

February and March when they come down from the mountains to find their prey. October and November are also good times for snow leopard sightings in India.

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