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Bengal Tiger

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The Bengal tiger is a well-known tiger from a specific population of the Pathera tigris tigris subspecies that can be found in the Indian subcontinent.

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This subspecies is threatened by loss and fragmentation of habitat, poaching, and was estimated to have fewer than 2,500 Bengal tiger by 2011.

None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within the tiger’s range is large enough to support an effective population of more than 250 adult individuals. India’s population was estimated at 1,706 to 1909 individuals in 2010, but by 2018, the population had increased to an estimated 2,603 to 3,346 individuals.

Around 300 to 500 tigers in Bangladesh, 103 tigers in Bhutan, 220 to 274 tigers in Nepal. The tiger is estimated to have occurred in the Indian subcontinent since the Late Pleistonce, for about 12,000 – 16,500 years.

The Bengal tiger is ranked among the biggest extant wild cats. It is presumed to belong to the world’s charismatic megafauna. It is known as the national animal of both Bangladesh and India, and it was once called Royal Bengal tiger.

Scientific classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
SuborderFeliformia
FamilyFelidae
SubfamilyPantherinae
GenusPanthera
SpeciesP. tigris
SubspeciesP. t. tigris

Characteristics

The Bengal tiger’s coat is light orange to yellow, with stripes ranging from black to dark brown. The belly and interior areas of the limbs are white, and its tail is orange with black rings.

Males have an average total length of 110 – 120 in (270 – 310 cm) including the tail, while females measure 94 – 104 in (240 – 265 cm) on average. The tail is typically 33 – 43 in (85 – 110 cm) long, and on average, tigers are 35 – 43 in (90 – 110 cm) in height at shoulders.

The weight of males ranges from 397 – 569 lb (180 – 258 kg), while that of the females ranges from 220 – 350 lb (100 – 160 kg). In Bangladesh Sundarbans, lies the smallest recorded weight for the Bengal tigers, where adult features are 165 – 176 lb (75 – 80 kg).

The tiger is known to have exceptionally stout teeth. Its canines are 3.0 – 3.9 in (7.5 – 10 cm) long and thus the longest among all cats. The greatest length of its skull is 13.1 – 14.8 in (332 – 376 mm).

Bengal tigers weigh up to 717 lb (325 kg) and reach a head and body length of 130 in (320 cm). Several scientific reports indicated that adult male Bengal tigers from the Terai in Bhutan & Nepal, and Assam consistently attain more than 500 lb (227 kg) of body weight. Other locations with the same weight of tigers are West Bengal and Uttarakhand.

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In the early 1970s, seven adult males captured in Chitwan National Park had an average weight of 518 lb (235 kg) ranging from 441 – 575 lb (200 – 261 kg), and that of the females was 310 lb (140 kg) ranging from 256 – 362 lb (116 – 164 kg). The only rival of Bengal tigers in terms of weight is the Siberian tiger.

The three tigresses from the Bangladesh Sundarbans had a mean weight of 169 lb (76.7kg). The oldest female weighed 165 lb (75 kg) and was found in a relatively poor condition.

Their body weights and skulls were distinct from those of tigers in other habitats. Their small sizes are assumed to be caused by a combination of small-sized of prey available and intraspecific competition in the Sundarbans.

Records

Bengal Tiger

Towards the end of the 19th century, two tigers shot in Kumaon District and near Oude, allegedly measured more than 366 cm (12 ft).

At the beginning of the 20th century, a male tiger was shot in central India with a body length and head of 87 in (221 cm) between pegs, a chest girth of 59 in (150 cm), a shoulder height of 43 in (109 cm) and a tail length of 32 in (81 cm).

The specimen could not be weighed, but it as calculated to weigh no less than 600 lb (272 kg). A male weighing 570 lb (259 kg) was shot in northern Indian in the 1930s.

The heaviest wild tiger ever recorded was possibly a huge male in 1967 at the foothills of the Himalayas. It weighed 857 lb (388.7 kg) after eating a buffalo calf and measured 127 in (323 cm) in total length between pegs, and 133 in (338 cm) over curves. It was assumed that it would have likely weighed at least 715 lb (324.3 kg).  

Habitat

In the Indian subcontinent, tigers inhabit tropical dry forests, tropical moist evergreen forests, tropical and subtropical moist deciduous forests, subtropical and upland forests, alluvial grasslands, and , mangrove.

Other habitats were known to cover a huge swath of riverine, grassland, and moist semi-deciduous forests along with the major river system of the Brahmaputra and Gangetic plains. It has now been largely converted to agricultural land or severely degraded.

The tigers in Bangladesh and the Sundarbans in India are the only ones in the world inhabiting mangrove forests. The population of Bengal tigers in the Indian Sundarbans was estimated at 86 to 90 individuals in 2018.

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Hunting and diet

The tiger is a well-known carnivore. It prefers hunting large ungulates such as guar, sambar, chital, and to a lesser extent also water buffalo, barasingha, serow, nilgai, and takin.

Among all the medium-sized prey species, it frequently kills wild boars and occasionally Indian muntjac, hog deer, and grey langur. Small prey species such as hares, porcupines, and peafowl form a very small part in its diet.

Bengal tigers often hunt and kill predators such as Indian wolf, Indian leopard, Indian jackal, mugger crocodile, fox, sloth bear, Asiatic black bear, and dhole. They rarely attack adult Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephants.

Some reports indicate that the tigers in Nagarahole National Park prefer prey weighing more than 388 lb (176 kg) and that on average tiger prey weighed 202 lb (91.5 kg).

The prey species included Samar, chital, gaur, wild pig. Sambar remains were found in 28.6% of all tiger scat samples, gaur remains in 44.8%, chital remains in 10.4%, wild pig remains in 14.3% of all scat samples. In Bandipur National Park, sambar and gaur together also constitute 73% of the tiger diet.

In most cases, tigers approach their prey from behind or the side at a close range and grab the prey’s throat to kill it. Bengal tigers often consume 40 to 88 lb (18 to 40 kg) of meat all at once.

Reproduction

The Bengal tiger in India has no definite birth and mating seasons. Most offspring are born in December and April. Offspring have also reported being born in March, May, October and November.

A male Bengal tiger reaches maturity at 4 to 5 years of age, and females at 3 to 4 years. A Bengal tiger comes into heat at intervals of about 3 to 9 weeks and is receptive for 3 to 6 days. After a gestation period of 104 to 106 days, 1 to 4 cubs are born in a shelter situated in thick bush, tall grass, or in caves.

 Newborn cubs weigh 1.72 – 3.53 lb (780 – 1,600 g) and they have a thick woolly fur that sheds after 3.5 to 5 months. They are born with their ears and eyes closed. The cubs begin to develop milk teeth at about 2 to 3 weeks after birth and the milk teeth will slowly be replaced by permanent dentition from 8.5 to 9.5 weeks of age onwards.

They suckle for 3 to 6 months and begin to eat small amounts of solid food at about two months of age. At this time, they tag along with their mother on her hunting expeditions and begin to take part in hunting at 5 to 6 months of age. At the age of 2 to 3 years, they slowly start to wean away from the family group and become transient.

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The young tiger look for areas where they can create their territory. Male offspring are known to move farther away from their mother’s territory than female offspring. When the family group splits up, the mother comes into heat again. The lifespan in the wild is 8 – 10 years, and in captivity, they can live up to 15 years.

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