Great Indian Tiger
¤ The Bengal Tiger
Being the largest in the cat family, Bengal Tiger attracts tourists
from all over the world. Generally found in White, the skin of these
Tigers have black stripes which gives it a royal look. Panthera Tigris
is the scientific name of the Tiger. The Bengal tiger or the Panthera
Tigris initially originated from Siberia and then slowly migrated down
south to the climate which was much colder.
¤ Bengal Tiger and the Mythology
He is the guardian of the jungle, carrier of the Mother Goddess and
the creator of Rain. He is capable of controlling drought and can even
invoke Indra, the god of Thunder and Rain. He can protect, he can
guard, and he can kill if he finds someone breaking the laws of the
From Siberia to Sumatra, the Bengal tiger is perceived as an icon of
strength, speed and agility. He is in fact seen as Gods
officer on special duty, protecting the young, healing the sick,
and punishing the culprits. In India tigers are revered to such an
extent that in the mid-seventies a movie chalked out an entirely new
deity Sheronwali Ma mother goddess that rides
tigers. The movie soon became an obsession with the entire nation, and
for months devotees showered the silver screen with coins and other
offerings. Another incarnation of the Mother Goddess, Durga, is always
depicted as riding a tiger. Durga came into being as a collective
force of all the Gods to fight the evil power of the demon Mahishasur.
Possessing joint powers of all the Gods, Durga chose the tiger as her
vehicle for reasons most obvious.
¤ The Tiger Dance Celebration
All along the coastline in Southern India, there is a tradition of
Tiger dance. To celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna on Janmashtami in
these areas men of all ages paint themselves with black stripes over a
yellow base, wear tiger masks and dance in the streets. In some areas,
like the small town of Udipi in Karnataka, special tiger dancing
contests are held and the winners are awarded handsome prizes. One
wonders what prompted this strange tradition in these areas, perhaps
the desire to be like a tiger strong, clever and agile.
¤ The Belief of North-East Naga Tribes
In the north-east region of the country, Nagas believe that both man
and the tiger are sons of the same mother. Although siblings, one took
birth in the shape of a man and the other in the form of the striped
tiger. Man stayed at home while the tiger went to the jungle. Later,
due to some reason, the brothers were forced to fight against each
other. Man forced the tiger to jump into the river and killed him.
Floating downstream, the animal body was discovered by the Naga God,
who sat on it for 10 years and gave birth to hundreds of tigers.
over its habitat, tiger and shades of its existence can be seen finely
woven with the local culture and tradition. All over, one comes across
thousands of anecdotes about the beast; both inspiring and terrifying.
All over India one can find images, statues, and paintings of the
tiger, yet this beautiful animal is in constant danger from the human
race whose inborn nature is to defy while admiring.
¤ The Great Indian Tiger
Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night
While getting down from an elephant in the National
parks disappointed, one often comes across a wildlife board "Dont
be disappointed if you could not see the tiger, the tiger sure would
have seen you". This very character makes the tiger different
from the other big cats the ability to hide and merge in the
surroundings. This is also one of the major survival techniques
adopted by the tiger.
Unlike lion, tiger leads a very solitary life, hunts alone, lives and
replicates in the areas that provide him enough cover. It is believed
that when God made the tiger He made Stealth and Invisibility the two
chief characteristics of this fascinating Lord of the Jungle. But
theres a catch. While a tiger lies in the bush it is almost
impossible to see it it stays perfectly still without a sound.
Except for its tail, which he can never hold still however hard it
¤ Save Tiger
Why should a species that is always blood-thirsty be conserved? Why
should huge government and international funds go in for the safety of
the tiger when so many human lives are living in poverty and misery.
The answer to the question is not as simple as it seems. For sure, the
lives of fellow human beings are precious, but the survival of the
tiger is no less important.
Unfortunately we, the human beings do not live in isolation.
Unfortunately we co-exist in an intense network of species and
sub-species. The human beings evolved as a result of evolutionary
process that started millions of years ago. From a small, semi-living,
unicellular organism millions of years ago we evolved into what we are
today. No doubt we are the most developed and powerful of all the
species, but unfortunately even today we are dependent on other
species for our daily requirements. Unfortunately all the species,
animals or plants, are similarly dependent on each other for their
are all small but important parts of the larger system that keeps us
feeding and multiplying. Indian Tiger is also a small but important
part of this system. If not for the tiger, it is for our own
selfishness that we have to keep a important part of the system alive.
the tiger feeds on the herbivorous animals, thereby
help keeping their population under control and indirectly saving the
jungle from overgrazing. It also feeds on the sick, old and injured
animals, thereby helping to keep its prey species healthy. There are
hundreds of obvious and not so obvious ways in which the tiger is
helps the larger system work.
However powerful and intelligent we human beings may be, we cannot create
life. We cant even forcefully order a species to multiply. The
two sub-groups of Indian Bengal tigers are already extinct. Once the
last pair of tigers on the planet die, how much ever we want, desire
or try, we will never be able to create another tiger.
Today this majestic specimen of life- the great Indian Tiger, evolved
after millions of years is in danger
just because of the inhuman
behaviour of human beings. Tiger is the icon of a heathy and
prospering jungle. Biologists believe that if in a jungle tigers are
surviving and multiplying, then every thing else in the forest is
well. The tigers presence itself is a symbol of growth and well
¤ Sunderbans - The Major Indian Tiger Hub
Sunderbans, in eastern India, where according to an estimate though
about half of the tiger population has mauled humans, the animal still
enjoys reverence. Any assault or even harm of life is seen as a result
of some dushkarma (misbehaviour) by the affected, in the present or
prior birth, for which he or she is punished by the tiger. It can even
be by his intrusion into the territory of the tiger, by breaking the
laws of the jungle, by cutting green trees or just by harming some
In the paintings of Warlis, a tribe residing north of Bombay, the
Indian tiger animal is depicted as a warm and friendly animal sitting
or passing through the village. Warlis have always had faith in their
tiger god, the Baghadeva. Carved wooden statues of tigers with the
sun, moon and the milky-way in the background can be seen all over
their habitat. Warlis believe that the tiger is supreme to all other
organisms and that the universe exists only because the Tiger is
¤ Tiger Reserves in India
¤ Tiger Habitat
Scientific evidence suggests that the tigers first originated in
Siberia. Fossil records dating from the Pleistocene period found in
the Chigar caves of the New Siberian Islands indicate that the
sabre-toothed tiger lived there some three million years ago. The last
tiger of this species became extinct just 10,000 years ago. and its
descendents started expanding their horizons, shifting more southwards
ultimately finding their best home in the Indian Subcontinent. Today
biologists identify eight subspecies the Royal Bengal Tiger,
the Siberian, the Caspian, the Javan, the Sumatran, the Chinese, the
Indo-Chinese and the Balinese. Today the Caspian and the Balinese
species are extinct while a lot of survival-pressure is still on the
other six subspecies.
Indian Tigers are very rugged and can survive in a variety of
environmental situations, ranging from dry and arid to high-altitude,
cold and Himalayan regions. In India, the animal is found in the
mangrove forest of Sunderbans, the hot and arid jungles of Rajasthan,
the wet and evergreen northeast India and the swampy reedlands of the
¤ Tiger Population
According to an estimate there were at least 50,000 Bengal tigers in
India alone in the 19th century. By the turn of the century 40,000
tigers were estimated in India, but the plight of this royal beast
became evident when the All India Tiger census revealed that only 1800
members of the species were living in 1972. Tiger once the symbol of
Indian wilderness, and shooting (of course with guns from quite a safe
distance) them was taken to be a symbol of heroism. Over a few
centuries, the tiger was mercilessly slaughtered by all trying to
prove their manhood. Documents show that more than 20,000 tigers were
shot between 1860-1960. The actual figures no doubt would be much more
than this. To add to this, indiscriminate and insensitive development
further took its toll on the King of the Jungle. An obvious change in
the attitude of the people was also registered. Many tribes, for whom
tiger was once symbol of life, force and justice, started working
against it by helping shikaris and the fur-traders.
But before it was too late, the government under pressure from
biologists and tiger lovers from all over the world pressed the panic
button and Project Tiger was launched in India. India is now involved
in a massive conservation effort covering over 300 national parks and
sanctuaries and accounting for over 12% of Indias total forest
cover. According to the 1984 census the tiger population was above
¤ Tiger On The Hunt
Although labelled as the king of the jungle, life for the tiger is
not easy, especially when all other species collectively work against
it. Different species of deer have their own distinctive alarm calls
forwarded further by all the prey species. Monkeys and langurs from
their superior positions on the trees always keep a vigil on its
Even in the area where there is plenty of prey, the tiger has to
really work hard to fill his stomach. After thousands of years of its
evolution the ungulates and the hoofed herbivores have developed the
senses of sight and smell and other techniques to collectively defy
any attack from this much feared beast. They constantly lift their
snout to catch the smell of the predator. On apprehension of danger,
the matriarch first stumps her forefoot followed by a high pitched
call, if the danger is real. The entire herd then immediately leave
¤ The Tact's of Hunting
The tiger moves against the flow of the breeze in order to avoid
detection by his body-odour. Very silently he treads towards his
victim, stalking well behind cover. This is the most crucial part of
the hunt, any mistake on his part and he may loose his meal of the
A study in Ranthambore indicates that only one in every ten hunting
attempts is successful. At times, he may even take 30 minutes to cover
just 20 yards. With a sudden flash he pounces on the hapless prey,
usually taking it from behind, laying his chest on the back of the
animal, and piercing the sharp canines into the neck of his quarry.
Mostly the tiger tries to bring down the prey with his body weight,
jerking the neck to break the spinal cord, killing it instantly.
Tigers start their meal from the rump and the hind legs. Very neatly
he opens the stomach cavity, takes out the intestine and the stomach,
and then starts feeding on the fleshy organs. He may feed upon his
kill for 3-4 days without minding its smell or condition. It also eats
the skin and the hair which act as roughage and help in the digestion.
¤ A La Carte
The bigger the better is a formula that the tiger
believes in. In fact, it goes by the size of the prey rather than
species. All deer and wild boars are hot favourites and with very
large species, sub-adults and the cubs are on the priority list. In
the Sunderbans the tigers are also known to feed on fishes, turtles
and water monitors. Occasionally, while training her cubs a tigress
might kill langurs or monkeys.
¤ The Tiger Cubs
Always on the move, nature has thus chalked a relatively smaller
gestation period of 105 days for the species. Thats the reason
tiger cubs when born are tiny, blind and helpless no problem,
nature has been generous here too. To ensure the survival of the
species, a tigress gives birth to six cubs, so even if the infant
mortality is high due to their dependency on the mother, at least a
few survive. On an average, only two cubs are able to make it to
blind cubs are brought up with great care and affection by the mother.
This affectionate relationship of the mother and cubs has surprized
many a biologist and hunters, who at different times have seen the
other side of the tigers nature. As a rule, only the female
takes care of the cubs, but in Ranthambore, an unusual photograph was
taken by Fateh Singh Rathore showing father, mother and their two cubs
sitting leisurely in a water pool.
The cubs dont go out hunting until they are three months old.
The mother changes her lair frequently in order to avoid intrusions by
other predators while she is away on a hunt. The cubs are trained to
be disciplined right from their early childhood. A carefully worked
out scheme of vocal symbols further guides the cubs to hide or to come
out to greet the mother.
One of the earliest lessons for the cubs is to pounce on their mothers
tail, which she constantly shifts to dodge them. Cubs also play a lot
among themselves, pulling each others tails and biting ears.
They also learn the stalking and treading techniques from the mother
and may occasionally kill a small squirrel for fun. Once the cubs are
three months old they accompany their mother; first observing
everything from a safe distance and later gradually participating
slowly they learn the tricks of the trade.
¤ Survival of The Fittest
If lucky, the tiger cubs reach adulthood (many a times the male tiger
kills the cubs if they are not his own so as to win the female). The
young cubs stay with their mother till they are 1 ½ to 2 ½
years old. Once they attain the age of adulthood they leave the
protective cover of their mother, the males have to vacate their
fathers territory or risk confrontation. The territory of the
male tiger in the prey-rich area can be as large as 50-100km. This
territory is shared by at least three females. The female agrees to
live in the tigers territory for reasons of security, food and
progeny assurance and the male for the reasons most obvious.
The young tiger may require to travel quite far, never to return to
his place of his birth. This process ensures the exchange of the
genes, essential for the healthy growth of a species. He may have to
compete with the rivals and may even get hurt or killed in the
¤ Courtship Period
Males demarcate their territories by sprinkling urine on prominent
trees on the periphery of their territories. They also scrape the tree
by their nails and then sprinkle foul smelling secretion from their
anal gland. Any intrusion in this territory is taken seriously and the
offender is either shooed away or killed. Incidences of tiger killing
and eating another tiger have been reported.
Female tigers also mark their territories but not as often and
religiously as the males. The scent of their secretions smell even
more when the female is in heat, delivering invitations to the males
to mate. Since the territories are distinctly marked and respected,
there are hardly any confrontations between the males. But if such an
event does take place, it is mostly serious. Knock-out fights are not
uncommon and many tigers may die due to injuries inflicted during
these supremacy bouts.
The courtship period is short ranging from a week to 10 or 12 days,
with actual mating taking place for just two or three days. After the
mating period is over, life is once again solitary for both the sexes.
After a gestation period of 105 days, females gives birth to six,
small, blind and helpless cubs. This marks the starting of another
challenging period for the mother tiger.
Tiger identification and counting its true number has been a
challenge for the biologists. Though every tiger has its own unique
pattern of stripes and facial features, its not practical to use this
method because of its secretive behaviour and other field problems.
Alternative, but comparatively less reliable method of identifying
individuals by their pugmarks is employed. Different features of
tigers pug, that is size, shape, depth of right and left lobes,
placing of toes to name a few varies form tiger to tiger. Using a
combination of these features, individuals can be identified.
However, there is a lot of criticism about the pugmark method of
identification and counting. Tigers leave different pugmarks on
different kinds of strata. There is a strong feeling amongst activists
that the actual number of tigers in the forest may be much less than
what the forest officials claim.
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