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The Royal Bengal Tiger

About The Royal Bengal Tiger

The famous Royal Bengal Tiger is found in all parts of India save for the Hot Desert regions of West India and the Cold Desert of the Trans-Himalayan Regions of the North. A symbol of strength and respect, it has a fascinating mythological and anthropological history with the people of India.

Today, it is every Nature and Wildlife Travelers bucket-list animal to view on safari in India, and India is the only place in the world one is likely to see the magnificient Tiger in the Wild. India has 50 Tiger Reserves today, and with strict Wildlife Laws and Protection, they are well protected within the confines of these Reserves.

Here we look at some interesting facts about the Royal Bengal Tiger and learn about it’s adaptations which it has perfected through thousands of years to become the apex predator in the Indian Subcontinent.

IUCN Status : Endangered

The Tiger count in India stands officially at 2967 (2018 All-India Census). This is a steep rise from the All-India Tiger Census in 2014 which showed that there were 2226 tigers in the wild in India.

One can only associate a number increase with a more effective counting method, and increased areas covered in the survey, as statistics show that the habitat for the Bengal tiger continues to shrinking exponentially.

While we laud the efforts of those on the field in terms of guarding against poaching. The policymakers of India leave a lot to be desired when it comes to increasing the threshold limit that has currently been met for the Tiger in India. It is difficult to see an increase in the current numbers.

Adaptations of the Tiger

• The Orange Coat and Black Stripes of a Royal Bengal Tiger help in breaking the shadows of the trees as the tiger moved through the jungle, its orange color absorbed by the sun’s rays which filter through. It also helps while stalking in the grasslands.

• The whiskers or vibrissae of a Bengal Tiger are an additional sensory tool, and they can sense the presence of other animals and sense motion.

• Like other Vertebrates, the Bengal tiger have an Olfactory Gland known as the Jacobson’s organ around the palate of the mouth and can learn of the presence of other Tigers from evidence such as urine, scat and smell.

• The Claws of a Royal Bengal Tiger are Retractable, hence helping them stay sharp and utilizing them only when required.

• A notable gap between the Molars and Canines of the Royal Bengal Tiger, which enables it to maintain a tight grip as it chokes its prey to death.

• The Jaw Muscles of the Royal Bengal Tiger are attached directly to the top of their skulls and the Bottom Jaw can only move up and down and not from side to side, hence enabling them to reinforce their tight grip on the animal which is in their grasp.

• The Large head and Powerful Jaws of the Royal Bengal Tiger enable them to deliver a deadly bite to prey animals that are far larger and heavier than them.

• The soft and sensitive Padding of Bengal Tiger on their Feet allows them to move in the jungle without making any notable sound.

• Long Hind Legs of the Royal Bengal Tiger give them spring and the ability to make long leaps: upto 30 feet in a stride.

Behaviour of the Tiger

•The Tiger is a Solitary animal, the only time when a “streak” of tigers can be seen is a mother with her cub(s) or a courting Male and Female Tiger. Rarely, one may also witness an entire Family of Tigers when the Male spends time off patrolling his area and visits his cubs.
• There are even rarer and fascinating instances recorded where Tigresses, with 2 sets of litters – one with her sub-adults which are on the verge of dispersal, along with her new set of young cubs. This is well documented at Pench National Park in Central India.

• A Male Royal Bengal Tiger has a Large Home Range, extending between 50-150 sq km, and tries his best to keep off any rival males(including his own adult male offspring) from his area, guarding it ferociously.

• Within the Males Area/Territory may be a number of Female Tigers, on average 2-4 females, with whom he mates periodically to produce his offspring.
• Being Solitary, their hunting efforts may be time and energy-consuming, though they are not averse to scavenging from other animals as well.

• A Bengal Tiger must ideally be within 30 feet of its prey to stand a good chance of capturing it. It is said that 7 out of 10 hunts end in failure.

• The keen sense of hearing and smell of ungulates in their numbers and the watchful eyes of Primates as they sound an alarm in the event of any threat are detrimental to the Tiger’s attempts at finding a meal.

• That being said, the Tiger is a hugely sentient animal, built for the kill and it uses its strength and experience to bring down large animals.
• A large animal such as the Sambar or Nilgai may last the Tiger 2 days, and it feeds in intervals – capable of devouring 20 kilograms of meat per day.
mother and cub tigers dhikala
sub adult tigers at dhikala
male tiger bandhavgarh

Courtship

• There is no fixed mating season for a Bengal Tiger.

• When a Female Royal Bengal Tiger is in oestrus and ready to mate, she leaves signs for in the form of Scent Mark or Sprays on visible trees which may lie in the path of a Male Bengal Tiger. These urinal sprays carry a heavy scent and have pheromones – which the Male Tiger can pick up by smelling it and using his Jacobson’s Organ to comprehend these chemical signals from it.

• A Tigress may also call out or roar in the hopes of attracting a Male Tiger nearby. These roars can be heard at distances of around 4 km by another Tiger.
• Sometimes, these signals create conflict as multiple males who pick on this may clash, resulting in fights. At times, these fights lead to fatal injuries.
• Hence, the females get to select the strongest available gene for her offspring.
• It is not always in the hands of a female however, as an intruder Male Tiger may kill the cubs when young if she cannot protect them. He does these in the hopes of mating with her as she could quickly go back to estrous if her cubs are killed.

• A Female Bengal Tiger may “falsely-mate” with an intruding Male Tiger as well, if she is able to lure him away from the location of the cubs in order to pacify him. She will remain with him as long as is necessary for the significant danger to pass.

• A Male and Female Bengal Tiger typically remain together for a couple of days, copiously mating in the hopes of conception.

• Although successful conception is a real matter of mystery, as it has been observed that, despite multiple pieces of evidence of mating, some Female Tigers do not conceive – this could be due to various factors such as lack of availability of suitable habitat, stress and competition with other Tigers.

Motherhood of a Tiger

• The Gestation Period is usually between 100-115 days.
• Offspring ranges from 2-5 cubs per litter. In extremely rare cases, 5 cubs are born, however, all 5 usually do not survive. Only 1 Wild Tiger known to man has successfully raised 5 cubs successfully to adulthood. You may reach about this living legend from Pench National Park, here.
• Cubs are fed mother’s milk for around 5 months, after which they are successfully weaned.
• The Female Tiger raises the cubs by herself, and her task is to hunt successfully while keeping her cubs well-hidden during her expeditions. The task is difficult and the defense-less cubs face innumerable dangers in their early stages of life. Hence, the mortality rate is rather high.
• A Tigress utilizes the spaces between huge boulders and even trunks of large fallen trees as a temporary hideout or denning site.
• As they get older, they accompany her across her home range. Learning from her and honing their skills. Eventually, she takes them on hunts as well, they watch as she stalks her prey with expertise, carefully avoiding giving away her presence. The larger the size of the cubs, the higher is the frequency with which she is expected to hunt.
• A Female Tiger will also bring down prey, wounding it gravely, however, she avoids giving it the fatal bite. She presents it to the cubs, who have to learn how to end the life of the hapless animal. They then have to learn how to remove the hair and tear the flesh apart. Gruesome as it sounds, these are priceless survival skills that have to be learned by each Tiger.
• By the time the cubs are of 18-22 months of age, she gradually stops feeding them and is a bit more aggressive with them before she finally drives them out of her area – thus ending their dependence on her. They are to fend for themselves now, and life of Solitude awaits them in their struggle to survive and forge territories of their own. Hopefully, they would have made successful hunts by themselves by then.
• Male sub-adults usually are dispersed earlier than their sisters and travel longer distances to establish an area.
tigress and cubs
tigress and cub - 2
tigress and cub - 3

Tiger Subspecies of the World

• There are 09 subspecies of Tiger in the World
• 03 out of 09 species are Extinct in the Wild, with a 04th one most likely extinct as well.
• The Global Population of Tigers is close to 4000 individuals across al 09 subspecies.

Siberian or Amur Tiger

Panthera tigris altaica
  • Weight: 180kg – 320 kg
  • Length: Upto 11 feet
  • Population: 400 – 500 individuals
  • Distribution: Russia

Royal Bengal Tiger

Panthera tigris
  • Weight: 130 kg – 280 kg
  • Length: Upto 10.5 feet
  • Population: 3600 individuals
  • Distribution: India, Nepal & Bangladesh

Caspian Tiger

Panthera tigris virgata
  • Weight: 100 kg – 240 kg
  • Length: Upto 10.5 feet
  • Population: Extinct
  • Distribution: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan

Indo-China Tiger

Panthera tigris corbetti
  • Weight: 150 kg – 195 kg
  • Length: Upto 10 feet
  • Population: 1200 – 1500 individuals
  • Distribution: China, Burma, Thailand

South China Tiger

Panthera tigris amoyensis
  • Weight: 110kg – 175kg
  • Length: Upto 9 feet
  • Population: Functionally Extinct
  • Distribution: China

Javan Tiger

Panthera tigris sondaica
  • Weight: 75 kg – 140 kg
  • Length: Upto 8.5 feet
  • Population: Extinct
  • Distribution: Java – Indonesia

Sumatran Tiger

Panthera tigris sumatrae
  • Weight: 75 kg – 140 kg
  • Length: Upto 08 feet
  • Population: <400 individuals
  • Distribution: Sumatra – Indonesia

Balinese Tiger

Panthera tigris balica
  • Weight: 65 kg – 100 kg
  • Length: Upto 7 feet
  • Population: Extinct
  • Distribution: Bali – Indonesia

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