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Tigers

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tiger
Tiger

One among the majestic animals in the wildlife that everyone feels amazed about is the tiger (Panthera tigris). There are six types of tiger that are living and three types of tiger have gone extinct. The six types of tigers that are living in the world are Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), and the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni). The three types of tiger that have gone extinct are the Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica), Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), and the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica). In this blog, we will explore the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris). The tiger was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. However, tigers walked this planet for a lot longer than Linnaeus described. The closest relative of the tiger is Pseudaelurus, a prehistoric cat who lived on the Earth 20 million years ago.


The origin of the name, “tiger” is unknown. Few references say it's named after the river, “Tigris” in Mesopotamia, where the now extinct Caspian Tigers lived. Another theory says tigers are named after the Persian word tigra, which means pointed or sharp. Few people even reference the term “tiger” to the Avestan tigrhi, which means arrow, probably referring to the speed and agility of a tiger.


deity on tiger
Goddess Durga - sitting on a Tiger

Tigers play an important symbol in the world and are India's national animal. In Hindu mythology, the tiger is considered the vahana, or the vehicle of Goddess Durga. In ancient India, the greatest of Gupta emperors, Samurda, had minted special gold coins depicting him slaying tigers. Tigers also represented the seals of the ancient Indus civilization. Tigers are seen as a symbol of strength and courage.  Every 3rd year on the Chinese Lunar Calendar is called the Year of the Tiger. In 2022, China had minted coins with Tiger printed on it to celebrate it. Tippu Sultan also depicted his frustration at not being able to defeat the British by ordering a special life sized toy, with sound, mauling a British soldier. Every year, July 29th is celebrated as World Tiger Day, also called Global Tiger Day or International Tiger Day. This day is defined to celebrate, support, and reflect on the importance of tigers. 


Tigers live in a lot of habitats, ranging from flooded mangrove forests to cold taigas. They are found in small areas in Asia, India, and Russia. In India, they are occasionally spotted on the Ganges River banks or relaxing near the wet mangrove forests.  The largest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian Tiger, lives in the snowy areas of Russia. 


Tigers are reddish orange with black stripes crisscrossing their bodies. The stripes of the tiger are unique to every tiger and scientists use camera traps to identify each one. A camera trap is a camera that is automatically triggered by motion. The camera traps can capture the stripe pattern on both sides, so that the tiger population in one area can be counted. It helps with counting tigers so that one tiger isn’t counted twice! The stripe pattern is used for camouflage and blends in with leaves and tree branches. Their stripe pattern is etched on their skin, meaning, even if all the fur is removed off a tiger, its stripes would remain. 


tiger paw with retractable claws
tiger paw

The paws of a tiger are large and strong, mainly used to bring down prey. Their paws are armed with large retractable claws, (about as long as house keys) and are protected by a sheath of skin while the tiger walks. This helps keep its claws sharp and additionally aids it to sneak on while hunting for prey.  Tigers love water! They have partially webbed feet in order to swim better and can even hunt in water. 


Tigers have really good eyesight, sense of smell, and hearing. They can  see in near total darkness. They have 20/50 vision i.e., they can see objects up to 20 feet away in the daytime, and in the nighttime, they can see more than 300 feet away. They can hear things up to 4 kilometers away, i.e., they can hear in an auditory range of 25 Hz - 50 Hz. This allows them to pick up on sounds like prey calling or warning or danger signs. With their smelling sense, they can pick up on the slightest odors, thanks to their large olfactory organs. Studies have shown that tigers can easily differentiate between various scents with the higher concentration of odor molecules, the better.


tiger attacking an elephant
tiger attacking an elephant

Tigers are a fierce apex predator that can kill animals twice its size. They hunt for deer, pigs, sloth bears, leopards, and even crocodiles and often stalk their prey for 20-30 minutes. If they live closer to humans, they hunt livestock. They even hunt on Rhinos and Elephant Calves. Their canine teeth and powerful jaws are used to suffocate prey, but smaller prey is usually killed by the bite at the neck. Then the tiger uses their sandpaper rough tongues to scrape off the last bits of meat. The tiger’s tongue is barbed, this makes it easier for the tiger to eat. It eats as much as it can and covers the leftovers with grass and leaves, so other scavengers, like vultures, don't feed on the leftovers. This behavior is called cashing! They are nocturnal hunters that travel many miles to find something to eat, due to their widespread  territory. They rely on their stealth to hunt rather than speed. The Siberian Tiger, also known as the Amur Tiger has the largest territory out of all the tiger species. 


Unlike lions, tigers are mostly solitary. Females and males come together only to mate. Tiger cubs leave their mother after 2 years to establish their own territories. Occasionally, they share a kill with the opposite sex. Unlike male lions, a male tiger usually lets females and cubs eat first.  Though they are solitary, they are vocal. They make a variety of sounds. A roar, being the loudest, can be heard  up to 3 km (1.9 miles) away. Tigers make a roar to defend a meal, challenge other tigers, or attract a breeding partner. A chuffle is a friendly greeting, it is a gentle puff of air combined with a playful snort. It is between the mother and her cub. Other forms of communication are spraying urine, leaving piles of feces where it can be seen, and clawing on trees. Clawing on trees is beneficial to the tiger, as it sharpens their claws. Listen to tiger sounds here: Tiger Sounds || All Types Of Sounds Make By Tigers 

 

champawat tiger
Champawat tiger

The lifespan of a tiger is usually 10-15 years. In captivity they can live up to 20 years. About 50% of the  tiger cubs often succumb to starvation, freezing temperatures, and unforeseen accidents. They even fall for predation from other tigers. 


  A special female Bengal tiger called Champawat Tiger, is responsible for 436 deaths. She was put in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest number of fatalities by a tiger. She was shot dead by British Hunter Jim Corbett in 1907. 


Apart from the subspecies, there are genetically crossbred tigers, such as the liger, which involves a female tiger and male lion and tigon, if the father is a tiger and the mother is a lion. Tigons are rare compared to ligers because male tigers and female lions aren't good in recognizing each others' mating signs. Ligers are often bigger than their parents while tigons are smaller than their parents.



white tiger
white tiger

The beautiful white tigers are mostly Bengal Tigers that lack the pigment pheomelanin, which gives the bright orange color for the tigers. White tigers have brown stripes and crystal blue eyes. They White tigers are made through severe inbreeding and the last wild one was killed in 1958. In 1951, a single white tiger cub was found and taken by a hunter, who killed his mother and normal colored siblings. His name was Mohan and he was the progenitor of white tigers now in captivity. He died in 1970 at 20 years old. There are no white Siberian Tigers, despite many sightings where Siberian tigers live. 


Black or melanistic tigers are thought to exist, but a single pelt remains the only evidence. The pelt shows that the black fur is only on the top of the head and back, while the rest turns into stripes down the tiger’s body. This is unlike many other cats, which are completely and truly melanistic


Unfortunately, tiger numbers are coming down and almost all of their parts from whiskers to their tails are sold in the black market. They are sold for medicinal properties, despite there being no scientific evidence. Tiger furs are seen as a symbol of pride in many cultures. Due to these reasons, tigers were hunted heavily. These days, there are more tigers living in zoos than in the wild. Severe conservation efforts have been put in place to get tigers off the endangered species list. Tigers play an important role in the ecosystem balance, as they are an apex predator in their area. They are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and are classified as Category 1 on China’s Law on the Protection of Wildlife. 

Want to know about more powerful creatures? Explore below:

Sources:


Glossary:


Depicted:  to show or represent

Agility:  ability to move quickly and easily 

Pigment: a certain color

Progenitor: an ancestor or parent

Pelt: the skin of an animal

Melanistic: the opposite of albinism, the excessive production of melanin in the skin



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