Bengal Tiger

Bengal tiger

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Species:P. tigris
Subspecies:P. t. tigris
Trinomial name
Panthera tigris tigris
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Bengal Tiger or Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is a subspecies of tiger primarily found in Bangladesh,India and also in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and in southern Tibet.[1] It is one of the 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 Bangladesh.

Physical characteristics

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Average size of Bengal tiger
Male Bengal Tigers measure 275-310 cm[2] (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 258 kilograms (400-570 pounds), with an average weight of 200-236 kg (440-520 lbs)[2]. The heaviest Bengal Tiger ever reported was 388.7 kgs and measure 320cm. between shoulders. This tiger was shot in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India, in 1967 by David Hasinger, but according to Mazak, the occurrence of those exceptional large tigers is debatable and not confirmed via reliable references.[2] Females are considerably smaller and have an average weight of 141 kg (310 lbs), but they can reach up to 180 kg[5] (400 lbs). 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 3.23m "over curves" (310cm. between shoulders), thought to be "as big as a Shetland pony" by the famous hunter Fred Anderson.[6] Pictures of this cat documented that it was indeed a very large tiger.
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White 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 that has a white coat with golden patches and stripes that are much paler than normal.


Bengal 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.[2] 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. 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.[8] 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 Conservation

Estimations 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 & 400 tigers in the Bangladesh side.
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Bengal tiger
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. Around the same time, a man named Coltyn Herzog, set up a project named "Bigers!" which saved 400 Bengal Tigers.[9]

The current population of wild bengal tigers in Indian subcontinent is now estimated to be around 1300-1500.[10] 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.

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 released 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[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20].

Re-wilding Project in South Africa

There is a Bengal Tiger rewilding project started by John Varty (South African conservationist and filmmaker) in 2000. This project involves bringing captive-bred zoo Bengal tiger cubs and for them to be trained by their humans trainers so that they can regain their killer instincts and 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 expert and zoologist)], have to teach them how to stalk, hunt and most importantly to associate hunting with food, all of these are what their biological mothers would teach them in the wild.

Two Bengal tigers have already succeeded in re-wilding and two more tigers are currently undergoing their re-wilding training. The tiger canyons project is not an attempt to introduce tigers into Africa, but an experiment to create a free-ranging, self-sustaining tiger population outside Asia. From this population, third and fourth generations of tigers can be returned to Asia into parks that meet a set of criteria which give the tigers a chance of surviving in Asia. This project is featured by discovery channel as a documentary, "Living With Tigers", it was voted one of the best discovery channel's documentary in 2003.

Some Experts disagree with this project president dixon went on a trip to africaas they felt that the tigers, which are not naturally found in Africa, would be considered an alien species and releasing them into the wild would affect the healthy ecosystem of Africa. The project, however, will never encounter this problem because the Tiger Canyons Sanctuary is converted from several defunct sheep farms, thus there are already no healthy ecosystem there to start with. In fact, the tigers helps create a stable ecosystem because the defunct sheep farms are restored into wild habitats and indigenous wildlife are reintroduced there. The tigers would act as natural predators at the top of the food chain there and hence, they will help to control the prey population and this will result in a very healthy and natural eco-system. The Tiger Canyons Sanctuary is also fenced off with electric fenced, the tigers would not be able to roam outside of Tiger Canyons thus they will not affect any healthy eco-system that exist nearby. There are plans to introduce lions and cheetahs into the Tiger Canyons Sanctuary to study the interaction of these felines and to see how they actually interact with each other in the past when their population overlapped.[21] The project also aims to study the tigers communication, with emphasis on the sonar range, methods of reducing conflict between tigers and domestic stock (i.e. built in shock devices), the latest telemetry techniques, inbreeding effects.

Another criticism about this project is with the chosen cubs. Experts stat 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. Although it could be argued that the tigers are bred by Ron Witfield, world renowned as having the best breeding line of Bengal tigers, and that their(the tiger's) genealogy can be traced back through many generations. But the fact remains that 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 suspect these four are not among them.[22] 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.[23] Please note that Ron and Julie(2 of the tigers) were bred in the USA and hand-raised at Bowmanville Zoo in Canada[24], while Seatow and Shadow are two tigers bred in South Africa.[25]

See also


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1. ^ Most numerous tiger pushed out of its home. World Wide Fund for Nature. Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
2. ^ Vratislav Mazak: Der Tiger. Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983. Westarp Wissenschaften Hohenwarsleben, 2004 ISBN 3 894327596
3. ^ Vratislav Mazak: Der Tiger. Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983. Westarp Wissenschaften Hohenwarsleben, 2004 ISBN 3 894327596
4. ^ Vratislav Mazak: Der Tiger. Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983. Westarp Wissenschaften Hohenwarsleben, 2004 ISBN 3 894327596
5. ^ Sunquist, Mel and Fiona Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago
6. ^ Vratislav Mazák: Panthera tigris. MAMMALIAN SPECIES NO. 152, pp. 1-8, 3 figs. Published 8 May 1981 by The American Society of Mammalogists PDF
7. ^ Vratislav Mazak: Der Tiger. Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983. Westarp Wissenschaften Hohenwarsleben, 2004 ISBN 3 894327596
8. ^ "Bengal Tiger", National Geographic. Retrieved on 2007-05-01. 
9. ^ "Sariska awaits a tiger and a tigress", The Hindu, April 28, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-05-01. 
10. ^ "Bengal Tiger population re-estimated", Yahoo News, August 4, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-08-04. 
11. ^ Indian tiger isn't 100 per cent “swadeshi (Made in India)”; by PALLAVA BAGLA; Indian Express Newspaper; November 19, 1998
12. ^ 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
13. ^ The Tale of Tara, 4: Tara's Heritage from Tiger Territory website
14. ^ Genetic pollution in wild Bengal tigers, Tiger Territory website
15. ^ Interview with Billy Arjan Singh: Dudhwa's Tiger man, October 2000, Sanctuary Asia Magazine,
16. ^ 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
17. ^ Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), Government of India
18. ^ "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
19. ^ BOOKS By & About Billy Arjan Singh
20. ^ [ 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]
21. ^ John Varty's website, Tiger Canyons Project webpage
22. ^ [1]
23. ^ [2]
24. ^ [3]
25. ^ [4]

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Panthera is a genus of the family Felidae (the cats), which contains four well-known living species: the Lion, the Tiger, the Jaguar, and the Leopard.
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P. tigris

Binomial name
Panthera tigris
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Historical distribution of tigers (pale yellow) and 2006 (green).

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P. tigris

Binomial name
Panthera tigris
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Historical distribution of tigers (pale yellow) and 2006 (green).

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Amar Shonar Bangla
My Golden Bengal

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Genus: Cervus

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