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Information about Bengal TigerThe Bengal Tiger, or Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris or Panthera tigris bengalensis), is a subspecies of tiger primarily found in India and Bangladesh. They are also found in parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and southern Tibet. The Bengal Tiger is the most numerous of the tiger sub-species, with about 1,411 wild tigers being reported by the Government of India's National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The Bengal Tiger is one of the three major big cats found in India, other being the Asiatic lion and the Indian leopard. Once found throughout the Indian subcontinent, the Bengal Tiger's natural habitat has drastically reduced due to their increasing interactions with humans. Most tigers in India, home to about 50% of the world's tiger population, are fragmented into many small isolated populations making them vulnerable to extinction.
The Bengal Tiger is traditionally regarded as the second largest subspecies after the Siberian tiger. It is considered to be one of India's flagship species and an icon of its wildlife, living in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, subtropical and tropical rain forests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests, and mangroves. The Bengal subspecies P. tigris tigris is the national animal of Bangladesh, while at the species level, the tiger Panthera tigris is the national animal of India.
PhysiologyPreviously it was considered the second largest subspecies, behind the Siberian Tiger (6 walls) (Panthera tigris altaica (6 walls)), however a recent study suggests that maybe this subspecies could be, in average, the largest of the tigers. The total length for the males is of 270-310 cm meanwhile those of the females is of 240-265 cm; the tail measure 85-110 cm of long and the height at the shoulders is of 90-110 cm. The average weight is of 221.2 kg (487.7 lb.) for the males and 139.7 kg (308 lb.) for the females, however those who inhabit the north of India and Nepal have an average weight of 235 kg (518 lb.) for the males and 140 kg (308.6 lb.) for the females. They are able to stay out in cold weather, because their skin is able to handle the temperature all over in any kind of weather. Its coat is yellow to light orange, and the stripes range from dark brown to black; the belly is white, and the tail is white with black rings. A mutation of the Bengal subspecies — white tigers — have dark brown or reddish brown stripes on a white background color, and some are wholly white. Black tigers have tawny, yellow or white stripes on a black background color. The skin of a black tiger, recovered from smugglers, measured 259 cm and was displayed at the National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi. The existence of black tigers without stripes has been reported but not substantiated.
The Bengal Tiger's roar can be heard for up to three kilometers (two miles)away.
Population and distributionThe current population of wild Bengal tigers in the Indian subcontinent is estimated to be between 1,300 and 1,500. Of these, 1,411 are found in the wild in India while about 280 are found in Bangladesh, mostly in the Sunderbans. Over the past century tiger numbers have fallen dramatically. Of eight sub-species alive in 1900 (117 years ago), three are now extinct and we have lost over 90 per cent of wild tigers.
Habitat losses and the extremely large-scale incidences of poaching are serious threats to species survival. Poachers kill tigers not only for their pelts, but also for body parts used 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 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 the decline of the tigers.
Relationship with humansAttack on humans
Closeup of a Bengal Tiger in a national park in southern India.Tigers are known to not like the presence of humans in their territory since they like to be alone. Any human interference in tiger hunting and lactating may disturb tigers and they often growl during such disturbances. There have been incidences where mother tigers have been separated from their cubs due to human interference. A well known incident occurred in Bandhavgarh National Park where a tigress known as Mohini was separated from her cubs while crossing the road since some tourists blocked her road to the other side resulting in losing her contact with her cubs, who had already crossed the road. Tigers become man eaters when they grow old and have no strength to hunt. At such times if a human comes in contact with the tiger, he may be killed. But that is not the only reason why tigers become man eaters. If tigers do not have enough prey to feed upon, due to an imbalance in the food chain, they will often eat man. If a young tiger has injured teeth or paws, then it becomes difficult for him to tear apart his prey, which is also another reason for him to eat man. There have also been incidents where tigers who are not maneaters have attacked humans due to their high interference. The most well known maneating tiger was the Champawat Maneater in Corbett National Park. She was a tigress and she killed a record of 436 people over five years. She was shot in 1911 (106 years ago) by British big-game hunter Colonel Jim Corbett. Tigers should be watched and observed at a distance from where they won't be disturbed. A photograph flash has also been known to enrage tigers. In an incident in Bandhavgarh National Park, a British woman was killed when she took several photographs of the tiger and accidentally fell on a tiger while she was seated on an Elephant.
Today, the place known to have the most maneating tigers is Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal, India. Here tigers are known to kill 30 people throughout the year. The forests contain mangrove trees which is situated on the Bay of Bengal. During high tide, the scent markings of tigers are washed away and the tigers get lost in the [wilderness]. Moreover these lost tigers reach the human inhabitants and villages where they are killed by the local people. Out of the fear of getting killed, tigers attack the humans and thus have established fear of them in the hearts of the local people.
The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) works with law enforcement agencies in India to apprehend tiger poachers and traders throughout India. WPSI also makes every effort to investigate and verify any seizure of tiger parts and unnatural tiger deaths that are brought to their notice.
The illicit demand for bones from wild tigers for use in traditional Chinese medicine, coupled with the international trade in tiger skins, continues to be the main reason for the unrelenting poaching pressure on tigers in India. There is virtually no demand for either bones or skins of tigers within India.
The following figures represent only a fraction of the actual poaching and trade in tiger parts in India. The central and state governments do not systematically compile information on tiger poaching cases and the details come from reports received by WPSI from enforcement authorities, work carried out by WPSI, and other sources.
Tara, a hand-reared supposedly Bengal tigress acquired from Twycross Zoo in England in Jul. 1976 (41 years ago), was trained by Billy Arjan Singh and reintroduced to the wild in Dudhwa National Park, India, with the permission of India's then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in an attempt to prove that zoo-bred, hand-reared tigers can 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.
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