'Tiger' - it's a very large solitary cat that has yellowish fur with black lines and native to the forests of Asia. These are the symbols of willpower, beauty, stealth, personal strength, courage, agility and wilderness. But sadly, they have been increasingly rare as their number is inching close to extinction. It's awful, isn't it? In the last century, 97% of all wild tigers are extinct. If this goes on, their disappearance will take only a few years which means they will remain as zoo sightings.
Why Did They Face Extinction?
Loss of habitat, conflicts between tigers, humans for space due to the expansion of cities and devastation of forests for agriculture, fuelwood, food and timber make them vulnerable to poaching and also inbreeding. Thus they get scarce of food and are attacking people in the villages very near to the forests and domestic animals which the natives depend on. In these cases, the angry people may capture them or kill them. Some greedy people are indulged in smuggling of these endangered species for easy money. We do hear huge consignment of body parts of tigers that are smuggled for huge amounts of money in black markets. Drastic climate changes heighten the risk of rising in sea levels, wiping out forests and leading to the reduction in their number.
A Day To Conserve Tigers
To address the vanishing of tigers, 'Global Tiger Day' or 'International Tiger Day' was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. Thus every July 29 is aimed at promoting the protection of habitats and conservation issues of tigers.
Interesting Tiger Trivia
Traditionally eight sub-species of tigers have been recognized, out of which three are extinct. They are,
Bengal tiger (Indian tiger)
Amur tiger (Amur rivers region of Russia, China and North Korea)
South China tiger/ Amoy or Xiamen tiger (South Central China)
Sumatran tiger (Sumatra, Indonesia)
Indo-Chinese tiger/ Corbett's tiger (Continental South-East Asia)
Javan tiger (Java, Indonesia) - extinct since the 80s
Caspian tiger (Turkey through central and west Asia) - extinct since the 70s
Bali tiger (Bali, Indonesia) - extinct since the 40s
Based on molecular markers, six sub-species are recognized. They are Amur tiger, Northern Indo-Chinese tiger, South China tiger, Malayan tiger, Sumatra tiger, Bengal tiger.
The female tiger and the young tiger are pronounced as 'Tigress' and 'Cub' respectively.
Usually, males are as heavy as females in every subspecies.
They mate any time in a year but mostly between the months November and April. In one litter, tigress gives birth to 2-3 cubs for every 2-2.5 years. Sometimes, it could be as few as one or as many as six. If all of them die in that one litter, it will take less than 5 months for second litter. Gestation ranges from 93-112 days.
Cubs are born blind and they open their eyes between 6 to 14 days.
At the end of the second birthday, half of all cubs die usually. Average lifespan ranges from 8-10 years in the wild and 16-18 years in captivity.
The birth of white tiger occurs in about 1 of every 10,000 births.
At the age of two, they divide from mother and get independence. At the age of 3-4, females get sexual maturity. In the case of males, it is at 4-5 years.
They possess a tail about 24-30 inches long, back legs as long as front legs, 4 inches long retractile claws, 30 sharp teeth, and rough tongue to remove fur and feathers while eating meat.
They can jump upward about 33 feet, reach speeds of about 30-40 mph but in short periods.
Tigers rely more on sight and hearing than do on smell to find prey.
Their skin colour acts as a camouflage while hunting and also for hiding from opponents in the wild.
The colour patterns on their body are identical between any two tigers and for both sides of the body.
They mainly wish to hunt alone at night times than during the day and consume meat up to 88 pounds at once.
Interestingly, they leave urine and faeces to determine their territories and also visit them often. The size of these territories is up to the availability of livelihood.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of Government of India, India has the distinction of having the maximum number of tigers in the world (1706) as per 2010 assessment. The Indian government declared the Bengal Tiger as the National Animal of India in 1972 and announced “Project Tiger” in 1973 to conserve tigers.
According to the latest statistics, only 3,890 tigers are left in the world, out of which 2,226 are in India.
Saving tigers is very simple. They only need enough prey, space and protection. The only required thing is our firm commitment to save these wild species.
(Images Courtesy: Shutterstock)