Tiger, (Panthera tigris), is the largest member of the cat family (Felidae) and the only other animal to match its strength and ferociousness is the king of the jungle, the lion (Panthera Leo). Tigers are one of the most majestic creatures of the wild. Everything about them spells royalty; right from their regal gait to their impressive roar. Tigers were even more loved and popular when the world became aware of the fact that they are fast becoming extinct. Since then, Tigers have come under the spotlight and have become the talk of the town and the jungle. Right from the Siberian Tiger to the royal Bengal Tiger, all the species are equally magnificent, intimidating, and yet extremely wonderful.
Types of Tigers
Most classifications done by zoologists and scientists have separated the different types of tigers into six subspecies. This classification includes the Siberian tiger, the Bengal tiger, the Indo-Chinese tiger, the South China tiger, the Sumatran tiger, and the Malayan tiger. Under some classifications, a few sub-species have been merged but broadly they can be put into these broad subspecies. According to some classifications, two distinct tiger species exist; P. tigris on the mainland of Asia and P. sondaica of Java, Bali, and Sumatra.
The rare Siberian tiger (P. tigris altaica) is the largest amongst these subspecies and measures up to 4 meters (13 feet) in total length with a weight that can go as high as 300 kg (660 pounds). The fur of the Siberian tiger is soft and pale.
The Indian or Bengal tiger (P. tigris tigris) constitutes almost half the tiger population of the world. Southern tigers are generally smaller than northern tigers.
Males are larger than females and can weigh approx 160–230 kg (350–500 pounds) and have a shoulder height of about 1 meter. Their length goes up to 2.2 meters and this excludes their 1-meter tail.
The Sumatran (P. tigris sumatrae) and Indo-Chinese (P. tigris corbetti) tigers sport a bright red hue and are marked with dark vertical stripes that look almost black in colour. Their cheeks, a large patch over the eye, underbelly, and the inside area of limbs are whitish in colour.
Not all white tigers are albinos and many non-albino tigers exist, primarily in India.
In the dense forest of Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, and eastern India, there are a few black tigers but the number of such tigers is small.
Where Do Tigers Live
The natural living habitat of tigers stretches from the Russian Far East through parts of North Korea, India, China, and parts of Southeast Asia to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Tigers are found living in habitats like dry grassland, mixed grassland-forests, rainforests, and deciduous forests. These regions are also home to a large number of prey species that support the survival of the dense population of tigers and other predators. Densely canopied forests do not make a good habitat for the tigers.
What Do Tigers Eat
Tigers are mostly nocturnal hunters who stalk and hunt their prey that includes a variety of animals. Although they prefer to feed on large prey like deer (chital, sambar, chital, swamp deer) and wild pigs they also eat smaller animals and this list also includes animals like porcupines. After a tiger has finished eating what it can from its kill, it hides the animal carcasses from vultures and other scavengers, to consume it later.
Tigers are very careful in their selection of prey and they tend to avoid hunting healthy and stronger mammals. However, there have been recorded kills that show tigers attacking larger animals like elephants and water buffaloes. Occasionally, tigers also prey on cattle that they hunt from human habitations. Some even make it a routine to feed on domestic livestock. Sometimes, a tiger may even try and take the kill of other tigers or leopards. They eat carrion too occasionally.
A tiger survives in the wild with its hunting skills. Although the natural instincts of a tiger play a great role in enhancing these skills, maternal training plays an equally important role in helping the tiger obtain its prey. This is one reason why tigers that have been released into the wild after being in captivity for long sometimes do not get skilled in hunting in the wild.
One of the key roles that tigers play in the wild is maintaining the ecological balance. Being the top predator in the food chain, they help in keeping the prey population numbers in check. Not only that, but tigers also help in balancing the number of other predators such as leopards, clouded leopards, and the Asiatic wild dog (dhole).
When a tiger starts to lose its skill of hunting its prey in the wild, it sometimes becomes a man-eater. There are a number of reasons that cause this behavior; lack of prey in the wild, the cubs picking up the habit from their mother, or a disability caused by age or injury. A tiger may also become a man-eater in its defense or to protect its offsprings. As the number of tigers has reduced there have been fewer instances of man-eating tigers except in the Sundarbans regions in the northeast Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (India) and in and around Royal Chitwan National Park (Nepal).
Fun Facts about Tigers
Tigers prefer to hunt large prey but they hunt and kill smaller animals as well. One of the lesser-known facts about tigers is that the porcupine is one of their favorite kills, and they like to eat it despite the danger of getting hurt from their quills.
Unlike the lion, the tiger does not sport a mane but as they grow old, the males the hair on the cheeks starts to spread and get long.
Tigers have adapted to survive in severe climatic conditions like in the Siberian taiga, where nights can be as cold as −40 °C (−40 °F) and the mangrove swampy region of the Sundarbans, where the temperatures can go as high as 40 °C (104 °F).
Tigers have evolved in the subtropical regions of eastern Asia and are less heat-tolerant than their other feline species counterparts. This is why they love swimming and bathing.
When under stress, a tiger can also climb a tree like a leopard.
Tigers are often seen haunting the ruins of old buildings and temples
Every 12th year in the Chinese calendar is the year of the tiger. Children born in this year are said to be favored by luck and power
The average lifespan of a tiger in the wild is approx 11 years
Since the tiger and lion both belong to the feline species, they are sometimes cross-bred in captivity. The offspring of such matings are called ‘ligers’ when the father (sire) is a lion and called ‘tigons’ when it is a tiger.
The phenomenon of cub infanticide mostly by males is rare but not unusual where the male tiger kills the cubs
Tigers have a special place in the ancient history of humans. Tiger figurines were depicted on seals from the ancient Indus civilization.
In a lot of communities, tigers are worshipped. According to Hindu mythology, the tiger is the vahana (vehicle) of goddess Durga.
Samudra Gupta, who was one of the greatest Gupta emperors of ancient India, had minted special gold coins depicting him slaying tigers as a symbol his power and strength
When emperor Tippu Sultan was not able to defeat the British, he ordered a special toy to be made that depicted a life-size toy of a tiger, with sound, mauling a British soldier.