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(Panthera tigris tigris) the national animal of India and Bangladesh
The coat of the Bengal tiger is yellow to light orage, with stripes ranging from dark brown to black. The stripe pattern is unique to each individual tiger. The belly and inside of the limbs are white, and the tail is orange with black rings.
Males are typically larger and heavier than females, with the former having a length of 106-122 inches, including the 33-to-43-inch tail, and the latter measuring from 94 to 104 inches in length. The weight of males ranges from 400 to 550 pounds, while that of females is 220-353 pounds.
Distribution and Habitat
A 2016 census showed 2,226 Bengal tigers in India, 198 in Nepal, 106 in Bangladesh, and 103 in Bhutan.
Bengal tigers typically inhabit tropical rainforests, marshes, and tall grasses, but one population (of about 70 individuals) lives in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, on the India-Bangladesh; the latter are the only tigers in the world to inhabit mangrove forests.
Ungulates, especially gaur, water buffalo, and various species of deer, make up the bulk of the Bengal tiger's diet, but small prey such as rabbits and porcupines are also taken. Bengal tigers are also known to occassionally hunt and kill other predators, including leopards, wolves, and even crocodiles. They will also go after domestic livestock if wild prey is scarce.
Unable to follow prey for long distances, a Bengal tiger uses its camouflage to hide in tall grass and wait for the prey to get close. When it is ready, it attacks silently by the side or behind the victim, jumps quickly, and strikes with a blow with its retractable claws or a bite in the neck. Once the prey is dispatched, the tiger will drag the carcass into cover, often over a distance of several yards, before consuming it. Since kills are often several days apart, the tiger will usually eat its entire kill at one sitting.
Bengal tigers have no definite mating season, but most cubs are born in the months of April and December.
One to four cubs are born in a shelter situated in tall grass, thick bush, or in a cave, after a gestation of 104-106 days. Newborn cubs have thick wooly fur that is shed after 3½-5 months. They begin eating small amounts of solid food at about 2 months, begin to take part in hunting at 5-6 months of age, and become fully independent at 2-3 years of age.
Other Habits and Behaviors
Except for mothers with cubs, Bengal tigers live solitary lives. Resident adults of either sex tend to confine their movements to a definite area of habitat within which they satisfy all of their needs, and in the case of tigresses, those of their growing cubs. Home ranges occupied by adult males tend to be mutually exclusive, but a resident may temporarily tolerate a transient or sub-adult male. Adult females do not tolerate any intruders into their ranges, except for mating.
Although it is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies, the Bengal is listed as Endangered due to threats posed by poachers and habitat destruction.
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This page was last updated on March 15, 2018.