Royal Bengal Tiger
The super predator threatened by poaching and habitat destruction
The Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), the national animal of India is an incredible sight. With its orange hide marked with dark stripes, its white underbelly, long tail, huge paws and fearsome teeth, the Royal Bengal Tiger of India is justifiably called the 'King of the Jungle'.
Royal Bengal Tigers range in length from 1.8 to 2.7 m (6-9 ft), while the length of its tail can be over 90 cm. An average Royal Bengal Tiger weighs between 130-180 kg. Its life expectancy is about 15-20 years and the females give birth to 3-4 cubs after a pregnancy of about 3.5 months.
The colour of the Royal Bengal Tigers pelt can range from orange to tan with white beneath. They shed their short thick fur in summer and it grows in thickness in winter. The strong jaw of the tiger is used to bite the throat or neck of the prey.
Tiger killings are split second affairs where the prey hardly has any chance of survival. Its formidable and retractile claws play a significant role in capturing and holding on to its prey.
The Royal Bengal Tiger is a super predator and important member of the carnivores that once roamed and dominated all of South East Asia. It is one of the stealthiest hunters, known for its intelligent and powerful attacks.
Tigers lead solitary lives, and the courtship period, and association between mother and cub is their only interaction and association. Tigers are entirely different in their hunting habits from lions, and hence they are mutually exclusive in their distribution. Tigers rest during the day in the shade, and begin to hunt for food at dusk. They have keen eyesight and a sharp hearing that helps them stalk their prey.
Your chances of seeing it in the wild
Royal Bengal Tiger is an endangered species. Their numbers were recorded as below 2,000 in the 1970s, after which Project Tiger was initiated in India in 1973 in wildlife national parks and sanctuaries of India. There has been a steady increase in the population of tigers in India where they are protected in 27 tiger reserves, wildlife national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
The threat of poaching due to the demand for tiger bones and body parts in traditional Chinese medicine remains a pressing issue. The loss of habitat as well as human population pressure on wildlife reserves in India is another concern.