tigris) are found only in Asia, originally ranging in a vast triangle from
Iran to Siberia and down to Indonesia. There
has never been an indigenous wild tiger in Africa! Of the 8 original sub-species, the Caspian, Javan,
and Balinese became extinct between 1940 and 1980. The Chinese tiger is now virtually extinct as
well. That leaves the Siberian (Amur),
Sumatran, Indo-Chinese and Bengal tiger, with the largest population, about 1,800,
with a habitat that includes India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Burma to the
Irrawaddy River. Only about 3,000 remain
in the wild. [Recent molecular analysis
has found a division in the Indo-Chinese population thereby technically
creating another sub-species known as the Malayan tiger.]
There have never been tigers in Africa but there are lions
in Asia. The last remaining ones are confined
to the Gir Forest in Gujarat.
Tigers have a normal lifespan of 10-15 years.
Tigers are not normally aggressive to humans unless startled
at close quarters, a mother with cubs, chance encounters on a kill, or old
and/or injured and thereby forced to hunt outside their normal prey and
habitat. Those often become the ‘maneaters’.
Female Bengal tigers (panthera
tigris tigris) will average 300 pounds and males 450. There is debate over
whether, on average, the Siberian tigers are bigger than the Bengal tigers. Siberian
tigers have the potential for being the largest, and captive ones are larger
than captive Bengals. But in the wild, the prey base in Russia is not abundant
enough for those tigers to realize their full potential. Prey is more scattered
and the Russian tigers need huge territories to capture sufficient food, so
much more energy is expended in the food quest. And the harsh Siberian winters makes it
difficult for the prey species to find food and the tigers to hunt. Several in Nepal have been recorded
between 550 and 700 pounds. The largest
Siberian on record is 845 pounds. The
Guinness Book of Records has one tiger in India at 857 pounds, shot by a chap
from Philadelphia in 1967, near what is now Corbett Tiger Reserve.
Females become reproductive around the age of 3. The gestation period is about 105 days. Most litters are 2-4 cubs. Cubs stay with their mother for about 2 years
until they have learned to hunt and survive on their own. This process is critical. No captive bred tigers have ever survived
introduction into the wild. Being a
solitary animal, after 2-3 years they must either displace other adult tigers
or disperse to carve out their own territory. A healthy tigress can have a
litter about every 2-3 years. Upon becoming pregnant again, the mother will
physically force her current young to leave her alone.
Tigers are known to walk vast distances usually between
dusk an early morning. Their nocturnal meanderings are preoccupied with the
search for food and patrolling their territory.
Territorial markings are a form of communication with other tigers and
include: piles of scat along established
trails, scratch marks nearby, spraying bushes and trees with their anal gland
scent, and rolling around to flatten vegetation. There is some debate about whether standing
up and scratching trees is marking territory or merely removing residue on
their claws from recent kills. It’s
probably a bit of both. A male can have
a range of 25-40 sq. miles and females about 10 sq. miles.
Tigers communicate with each other: a long range roaring
between males and females; male to male to declare territory; or short range
moaning of a mother to her cubs, by a deep, loud sound best spelled AAR-ROOOM!
strong homing instincts. A male tiger
was moved from Pench Tiger Reserve to Panna Tiger Reserve on November 14,
2009. Then, on November 25, in an
instinctual act of tiger behavior, he headed home. Tracked by his radio collar, he was finally
caught and tranquilized by the Forest Department on December 25th, 150 km. from
Panna, crossing hills, villages, rivers, and fields, heading home to Pench.
Tiger are normally solitary animals but will socialize from
time to time and have been known to share a meal.
Males who take over a new territory will often attempt to kill
their predecessor’s young to establish dominance and strengthen their own gene
pool. There is concern for genetic diversity in smaller tiger populations as males
will breed with their mothers and daughters.
Tigers will make a kill every 4-7 days, more frequently if
a mother has cubs. Preferred food
includes wild boar, chital (spotted deer), sambar, barking deer, hog deer, and young
rhinos or gaur- the largest wild ox in the world. Tigers usually attack from behind, first
getting control with their claws, then holding on with massive forearms until
they can finish the kill with a bite to the neck or throat. Tigers may even
attack monkeys, snakes, peacocks, and jungle fowl if hungry.
Tigers have excellent eyesight and an even better sense of
The presence of a tiger will be announced throughout the
forest by alarm calls. Tiger prey
species work together both in gathering food and warning each other of the
presence of a predator. Monkeys roam
high in the trees and deer forage the forest floor eating what is knocked out
of the trees. Monkeys will be the first
to sound the alarm of a predator by their agitated screeching. The chital and sambar have their own form of
loud, sharp bleeping sounds to alert each other and the forest.
Tigers love the water and are excellent swimmers.
Tigers rarely climb trees but if properly motivated can
reach heights of 16-18 ft. A Nepali
researcher was pulled out of a tree from that height by an enraged tigress in 1978. She had been darted with a tranquilizer and fitted
with a radio collar. When she awoke in a mood most foul the researcher was
watching from a nearby tree. Her cubs
were nearby and she wanted to make sure they were safe. Enraged, she got a running start, pulled him
out of the tree, tore a good part off his upper leg, stunned him out as they
landed on top of each other, then sauntered off into the forest with her
Tigers have distinct stripe patterns on their face and
sides. Camera trap photography has
become the method of choice in tiger identification and census taking. Pugmark (footprints) identification is also
used. Pugmarks? From an Anglo-Indian
term pug, meaning footprints. Originally
from the Hindi and Urdu work pag.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding white
tigers. There are no sub-species of
white tigers running around the wilds of Asia.
White tigers are the result of a recessive mutation requiring both
parents to have that gene to produce white offspring. The last known white tiger in the wild was
captured in 1950 by the Maharaja of Rewa in the forests near Bandhavgarh. [The
current Maharaja of Rewa still owns the land atop the plateau at Bandhavgarh]. The
Maharaja named him Mohan. Mohan mated with one of his daughters and the result
was white cubs. It is believed that all white tigers in captivity are descended