Bengal Tiger- Some factual information by Junglewala.
Tigers occupy an important place in the Indian culture. Since ages, it has been the symbol of magnificence, power, beauty and fierceness and has been associated with bravery and valor. Before head on to the Tiger Safari in India, one should know the basic facts about tigers in India.
The tiger also has a significant place in Hindu mythology as the vehicle of Goddess Durga. There were 9 subspecies of tigers were found in the world. At present only six species are known to be survived.
Approximately 10000 to 15000 tigers are been reported in captivity in USA and China alone. Tigers prefer to stay in dense forests with good undergrowth and tall grasses. Tiger is a solitary animal prefers to stay alone, but in some cases family bonding has also seen. Strongest male takes possession of the territory which may have multiple females. Tiger in wilderness has an average life of 14-15 years while in captivity can live up to 20-22 years.
Eyes: The eyes of the tiger are situated on the front of its head, and not to the sides. Tigers make extensive use of their vision for everyday functions and applications (in much the same way as human beings), but particularly for hunting during the darkness of night or the limited visibility of dusk or storms. During the day, the tiger’s eyesight is more or less equal to the quality that we enjoy. Compared to many other animals, this is quite impressive.
However, tigers are not able to perceive the detail that we can, since this is not necessary for their purposes.Also like humans, tigers have binocular vision. This enables them to be able to use their sense of depth perception to judge distances, giving their pouncing and jumping actions a distinct accuracy.
If they were not able to judge distances as well as they can, they could injure or lose their prey, rather than catching and killing it swiftly.
Tigers hunt mainly during the evening and night times, when the vision of their prey is compromised. For this reason, their night time vision is excellent; about six times better than that of humans’. There are several adaptations within the actual eye that allow for this:
1.It has a wide, rounded pupil that allows maximum light to enter into the eye, when necessary.
2. The anterior chamber and lens of the eye are also larger for the same reason.
3. The tiger’s retinas comprise mainly rod receptors, which are cells that are sensitive to low light levels and can perceive very slight movements. There are some cone cells (colour receptors) in each eye, but these are used more for day vision, and not to perceive a range of different colours. In fact, it is thought that some tigers likely only see dull greens, blues and reds, while others see in black and white.
4. Thetapetumlucidum is a layered, mirror-like structure behind the retina that reflects light back into the eye for a second time so that the eye and brain can form a brighter image of it.
5. There is a wide line of nerves running horizontally across the centre of the eye. This makes a huge difference to the peripheral vision capabilities of the tiger and allows them to be aware of approaching dangers as well as of prey that may be slightly out of their immediate field of sight.
The nictitating membrane is present in tigers in addition to top and bottom eyelids. This membrane can sweep across the eye, keeping it clean and moist.
While newborn tigers are born with closed eyes, when the eyes do open, which typically happens about 10 days after the tiger is born, their eyes are blue. Most tigers lose this coloring as they age, though some tigers, such as white tigers, can have blue eyes into adulthood.
In a life dominated by necessity, the tiger’s sense of sight is an essential part of its very survival.
Hairs and Fur: There are two types of hairs are found on the body of tigers. 1. Guard Hairs and 2.Underfur. Under fur traps air and keep body warm in winters. They use their rasping tongue to groom hairs, remove loose hairs and spread oil secretion evenly. Stripes are marked on hairs as well as on skin. They are vertical in black or dark brown color. Males of all subspecies exhibit long fur around neck in form of a “ruff” around the back of the head.
Cat Whiskers:Whiskers are super sensitive to the slightest of touch. Whiskers are a type of mammalian hair that are typically characterised, anatomically, by their large size, large and well-innervated hair follicle and by having an identifiable representation in the somatosensory cortex of the brain.
They are specialised for tactile sensing (other types of hair operate as more crude tactile sensors).
Stripe pattern on the top of the animal’s head resembles the Chinese character “Wang” which means the king. On the back of the ears one could see the white spots, which functions as false eyes to the potential predator from the rear. These spots play role in aggressive communication when threatened; tigers may twist their ears around so that the back faces forward.
All the tigers have an inborn attraction towards water and can be seen around water holes with cubs. Fore limbs of tigers are extremely strong, equipping animal well for killing.
Stripes and Colour: The regular repeating pattern in biological systems is actually generated by a pair of morpho-genes that work together as an activator and inhibitor. This is applicable on tiger’s stripes also.White tigers are very rare, owing their unique color to a defective recessive gene present in roughly 1 in 10,000 tigers.
This gene also causes them to have blue eyes rather than the normal yellow or green eyes found in most Bengal tigers.White tigers are a color variant of the Bengal tiger, one of six surviving subspecies of tiger. White coloring is the result of a mutation in a single gene, which prevents expression of the normal orange color. White tigers can still have stripes because the mutant gene that prevents them from having reddish or yellowish coloring does not block the black pigment that forms the stripes. Stripes act as camouflage inthe tigers’ natural habitats of forests, grasslands and swamps, helping them hide from the animals they hunt for food, thence white tigers were vulnerable in the wild.
Territory: Every tiger mark its territory, the size of territory varies greatly by prey density, locality and season. If prey is in abundance, territories tend to be smaller in size.Seasonality in terms of prey migrations, food availability and weather may also affect prey populations and therefore the size of tiger territories. Male territory usually encompasses more than one female. Tigresses usually occupy territories adjacent to or take over parts of their mother’s territories. Tigers silently communicate by marking their territories like “Scent spray marking” by spraying a musky smelling fluid which is a mix of secretion of anal glands and urine. They patrol their territory and walk almost 12 – 15 kms in night to inspect if there is any invasion when they do their hunting round. Scratching on trees and clawing is also observed in the process of territory marking. Tiger need a territory around 20 kms and tend to stick to fairly well defined areas.
Size: The size of a tiger depends upon the prey what it eats. Siberian tigers are big as they eat large antelopes while Sumatran tigers are smaller as they feed upon smaller animals.Large size is also impacted of the geographical locations.
Life: Average tiger lives around 15 -16 years in the wild, while in captivity it can live up to 20-25 years. Oldest tiger lived to be 26 years.
Leaps and bounds: tiger can cover 13 feet in a single bound when they are running at full speed and can leap 23 feet.
Sense: Tiger rely on sight, smell and hearing to locate a prey. Paw pads are very sensitive and soft.
White tiger: was first found by Maharaja Rewa in 1850.
Flehmanbehavior: Tiger grimace when they found / sniff scent in their territory is known as flehmann behavior.
Diet : Adult Bengal tiger eats 40 kg of meat per day, mothers with cub needs 50 -60 kg per day.The neat ness of the tiger eating habits make tiger kill easy to identify. Tiger sometimes eat fruits.
Breeding: Tigers breed throughout the year, active in the cool dry season from November to April. Ovulation is induced by mating. If conception occurs, 3 -5 cubs are born 95-110 days later in a litter. If female doesn’t conceive she becomes receptive again in 25 days. Tigers copulate several times in an hour. Mating goes on for about three days, before sex begins tigers often rub their faces.
Mother Hood: Cubs are born in the caves and suckle on their mother for about 45 minutes at a time. Mother tiger stay with cubs for two years, cubs feed on meat at 3-4 months brought to the den. Cub tigers leave their mother when they are 18-24 month’s old.
Tigers that reach adolescence have about 50% chances of living to a normal age. Young males at this age often disperse but daughters stay near mother and often inherit mother’s territory, when she dies.