Bengal tiger — the most famous of all tiger species. The endangered Bengal tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh. Conservationists are trying to save the species, but the biggest problem for Bengal tiger populations is still man-made.
Species origin and description
One of the oldest ancestors of the Bengal tiger is the saber-toothed tiger, also called Smilodon. They lived thirty-five million years ago. Another early ancestor of the Bengal tiger was Proailur — little prehistoric cat. They are among the earliest fossils of cats found in Europe twenty-five million years ago.
Some close relatives of the tiger — This is a leopard and a jaguar. The oldest fossils of tigers, two million years old, have been found in China. It is believed that Bengal tigers arrived in India about twelve thousand years ago, because until that time no fossils of this animal were found in the area.
Video: Bengal Tiger
Scientists believe that a big change was taking place at that time, as tigers had to migrate long distances to survive. Some experts believe that the reason was the rise in sea levels, due to which southern China was flooded.
Tigers have changed and evolved over millions of years. At that distant time, big cats were much larger than they are today. As soon as the tigers became smaller in size, they were able to learn to swim and gained the ability to climb trees. Tigers also run faster, making it much easier to find prey. Tiger Evolution — a great example of natural selection.
Appearance and Features
The most recognizable feature of the Bengal tiger is its distinctive coat, which varies in ground color from light yellow to orange and has dark brown or black stripes. This color forms a traditional and familiar pattern. The Bengal tiger also has a white belly area, and a white tail with black rings.
There are various genetic mutations in the Bengal tiger population that have led to what is commonly referred to as “white tigers”. These individuals are either white or white with brown stripes. There is also a mutation in the genes of the Bengal tiger that results in a black coat.
The Bengal tiger, like many other species, exhibits sexual dimorphism between male and female. The male is usually much larger than the female, about 3 meters long; while the size of the female is 2.5 meters. Both sexes tend to have a long tail, which can range from 60 cm to 1 meter in length.
The weight of the Bengal tiger varies from individual to individual. This species is officially recognized as the largest member of the cat family that is not yet extinct (although some argue that the Siberian tiger is larger); the smallest member of the big cats — cheetah. The Bengal tiger does not have a particularly long lifespan in the wild compared to some other wild cats and, on average, lives up to 8-10 years, with 15 years being considered the maximum age. In more protected environments, such as in captivity or in reserves, the Bengal tiger has been known to live up to 18 years.
Where does the Bengal tiger live?
Main habitats are:
The estimated population of this tiger species differs depending on the habitat. In India, the Bengal tiger population is estimated to be around 1,411 wild tigers. In Nepal, the number of animals is estimated at about 155. In Bhutan, there are about 67–81 individuals. In Bangladesh, the Bengal tiger population is estimated at about 200 representatives of the species.
When it comes to conservation efforts for the Bengal tiger, the landscape of the Terai Ark in the foothills of the Himalayas is of particular importance. Located in northern India and southern Nepal, there are eleven regions in the Terai Ark zone. These areas consist of high grass savannahs, dry forested foothills and create a protected area of 49,000 square kilometers for the Bengal tiger. The population is spread between protected areas to protect the genetic line of tigers, as well as to maintain ecological integrity. The protection of species in this area plays an essential role in the fight against poaching.
Another advantage of Terai's protected Bengal tiger habitats is the local awareness of the need for conservation efforts. As more locals become aware of the plight of the Bengal tiger, they realize they need to step in and protect this mammal.
What does the Bengal tiger eat?
Although tigers are the largest of the wild cats, this size does not always work in their favor. For example, large dimensions can help him kill prey after capture; however, unlike cats such as the cheetah, the Bengal tiger cannot chase prey.
The tiger hunts during sunrise and sunset, when the sun is not as bright as at noon, and therefore the orange and black stripes allow it to camouflage itself in the tall grass of swamps, meadows, bushes, and even in the jungle. The black stripes allow the tiger to hide in the shadows, while the orange color of its fur tends to blend into the bright sun on the horizon, allowing the Bengal tiger to take its prey by surprise.
The Bengal tiger most often kills smaller animals with a single bite at the back of the neck. After a Bengal tiger has brought down its prey, which can range from wild boar and antelope to buffalo, the wild cat drags the prey into the shade of trees or to the waterline of local swamp pools to keep cool.
Unlike many cats, which tend to eat their share and leave the prey, the Bengal tiger can eat up to 30 kg of meat in one sitting. One of the unique eating behaviors of the Bengal tiger compared to other large cats is that the animal has a stronger immune system.
It is a known fact that he can eat meat that has already begun to decompose without bad consequences for himself. Perhaps this may be the reason that the Bengal tiger is not afraid to attack sick and old animals that fight off the herd or are not able to resist at all.
Photo: Bengal tiger in Russia
People generally assume that the tiger is an aggressive hunter and will attack humans without hesitation; however, this happens extremely rarely. Bengal Tigers — rather shy creatures and prefer to stay in their territories and feed on “ordinary” prey; however, certain factors may come into play that encourage Bengal tigers to seek alternative food sources.
Bengal tigers are sometimes known to attack not only humans, but also other predators such as leopards, crocodiles, and Asiatic black bears. A tiger may be forced to hunt these animals for a variety of reasons, including: inability to effectively hunt their usual prey, lack of animals in the territory of the tiger, or injury due to old age or other reasons.
A human is generally an easy target for the Bengal tiger, and although it prefers not to attack people, in the absence of an alternative, it can easily bring down an adult human, even if the tiger has become disabled due to injury.
Compared to the Bengal tiger, the cheetah is able to overtake any prey. He does not prey on old, weak and sick animals, instead he will go after any animal that has been separated from the herd. Where many big cats prefer to hunt in groups, the Bengal tiger is not a collective animal and prefers to live and hunt alone.
Social structure and reproduction
The female Bengal tiger reaches sexual maturity in about 3-4 years, and the male Bengal tiger in 4-5 years. When a male Bengal tiger reaches sexual maturity, it will move into the territory of a nearby mature Bengal tigress to mate. A male Bengal tiger can stay with a female for only 20 to 80 days; however, out of this time period, the female is only fertile for 3-7 days.
After mating, the male Bengal tiger returns to its territory and no longer takes part in the life of the female and cubs. However, in some national parks and reserves, Bengal males often communicate with their offspring. The female Bengal tiger gives birth to 1 to 4 cubs at a time, the gestation period is about 105 days. When a female gives birth to her young, she does so in a safe cave or in tall grass that will protect the young as they grow.
Newborn cubs weigh only about 1 kg and are characterized by a particularly thick coat that falls out when the cub is about 5 months old. The fur serves to protect young children from the elements while they learn about the world around them.
At birth, young tigers are unable to see or hear and have no teeth, so they are completely dependent on their mothers for the first few weeks of life. After about 2–3 weeks, the cubs develop milk teeth, which are rapidly replaced by permanent teeth at 2 to 3 months of age. The cubs feed on their mother's milk, but when the cubs are 2 months old and have teeth, they also begin to eat solid food.
At about 2 months, young Bengal tigers begin to follow their mother when she goes hunting to acquire the necessary skills. However, Bengal cubs will not be able to hunt alone until they are 18 months old. Young mammals stay with their mother and siblings for a period of 2 to 3 years, at which point the family pack disperses as the young tigers set off to establish their own territories.
As is the case with many other wild cats, the female Bengal tiger tends to stay closer to her mother's territory. Male Bengal tigers usually go further. This is believed to help reduce the occurrence of inbreeding within the species.
Natural enemies of the Bengal tiger
Exactly from- per person, the number of Bengal tigers has declined to low numbers.
The main causes of extinction are:
- Deforestation in habitats.
As a result of both hunting and deforestation in areas where the Bengal tiger lives, this majestic beast is driven out of the house and left without food. Tiger skins are also highly prized, and while endangered species are illegal to hunt, poachers still kill these animals and sell their skins on the black market for pennies.
Conservationists hope they can help prevent this devastating phenomenon , protecting species in national parks that can track populations and also keep hunters away.
Population and Species Status
By the end of the 1980s, Bengal tiger conservation projects expanded from nine territories to fifteen, which were spread over 24,700 square kilometers of land. By 1984, over 1,100 Bengal tigers were thought to live in these areas. Unfortunately, this increase in numbers did not last, and although the Indian tiger population reached 3642 by the 1990s, it began to decline again and was recorded as about 1400 individuals from 2002 to 2008.
Government of India in the first half of the twenty-first century began to create eight new reserves designed to preserve animals. The government has pledged to fund an additional $153 million for the Project Tiger initiative.
The money was to play a significant role in building a tiger protection force to fight local poachers. The program relocated some 200,000 villagers who lived in close proximity to Bengal tigers. Minimizing tiger-human interactions is an important part of maintaining tiger populations.
Keeping on native land gives the Bengal tiger a boost when it comes to breeding programs that aim to release captive-bred tigers back into the wild. The only Bengal tiger not kept in an Indian zoo, — This is a female living in North America. Keeping the majority of Bengal tigers in India not only helps ensure a more successful release back into the wild, but also helps ensure these tigers' genetic bloodlines are not diluted with other species.
Genetic “pollution”, as it is called, has already occurred in the tiger population, starting in 1976 at the Twycross Zoo in England. The zoo raised a female Bengal tiger and donated her to India's Dudhwa National Park to prove that captive Bengal tigers can live successfully in the wild. As it turned out, the female was not a pure Bengal tiger.
Bengal Tiger Conservation
Project Tiger, originally launched in India in 1972, — it is a project that was created to conserve areas of biological importance and also to ensure that a viable population of Bengal tigers remains in the country. The idea of the project was to create a centralized population of tigers that would spread to neighboring forests.
The same year that Project Tiger was launched in India, the Indian government passed the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This law has allowed government agencies to take significant action to ensure the protection of the Bengal tiger. In 2004, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of India authorized RS. 13 million were used for the mapping project. Project Goal — map all forest reserves in India using technology such as cameras, traps, radio telemetry, and animal counting to determine the exact size of the tiger population.
Captive breeding of Bengal tigers has been going on since 1880; unfortunately, however, this breeding often results in cross-breeding of subspecies. To facilitate the breeding of purebred Bengal tigers in captivity, there is a book of Bengal tigers. This source maintains records of all captive Bengal tigers.
The Tiger Canyons Re-Wilding project was started in 2000 by John Varty, a South African wildlife filmmaker. Together with zoologist Dave Salmoni, he trained captive tiger cubs to hunt prey and associate hunting with food in order to restore the predatory instinct in these cats.
The goal of the project was for the tigers to learn how to support themselves. They would then be released into a South African game reserve. Unfortunately, the project met many obstacles and received a lot of criticism. Many believed that the behavior of the cats was manipulated for the purpose of making the movie. This was not the most exciting aspect; all tigers were crossbred with tigers of the Siberian line.
The loss of the Bengal tiger would not only mean that the world lost its species, but would also become dangerous for the ecosystem. For this reason, the usual order of things, which is so important for balance in the wild, would be violated. If an ecosystem loses one of the largest, if not the largest, predator in the food chain, it will lead to absolute chaos.
Chaos in an ecosystem may seem small at first. However, this phenomenon is very similar to the butterfly effect, when the loss of one species leads to an increase in another, even the slightest changes in this ecosystem will lead to the loss of an entire area of the world. Bengal tiger needs our help — this is the least that a person can do, as a species that has caused enormous damage to the population of many animals.