Species of January: The Bengal Tiger

I had been saving this particular species of tetrapod for my final blog post, and now that time has come. Recently I accepted an internship at the Center Of Science and Industry in Columbus, so I will be ending my work here at the Tetrapod Collection. As my time here comes to an end, I’d like to finish by writing about my favorite tetrapod species.

Growing up to 6 feet in length and weighing up to 500 lbs, the Bengal Tiger (Panther tigris tigris) is, without question, one of the most majestic and regal animals on this planet. Different tiger species can be found in different parts of Asia but the Bengal Tiger is found primarily in India and some areas of neighboring Bangladesh. Tigers are the largest cats in the world and have a distinct roar that can be heard

A tiger skull that we have here in the Tetrapod Collection.

A tiger skull that we have here in the Tetrapod Collection.

from two miles away. Tigers are known for their distinctive striped coats and, like our fingerprints, no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes. The tiger’s stripes are used to break up the tiger’s shape against the shadows of the mangrove forests in which they live. When tigers hunt, they will get in very close and use a quick fatal pounce to deliver a crushing bite to their prey. An adult tiger can eat up to 60 pounds of meat in one night, and will usually bury whatever it can’t finish in order to come back to it later. Tigers are fiercely territorial and unlike lions (who live and hunt in a large pride) tigers live, hunt, and rear offspring alone. Female tigers give birth to two to six cubs and raise them for two to three years before the young are kicked out and must find territory ranges of their own. To learn more facts about the Bengal Tiger, feel free to visit the National Geographic’s website.

It pains me dearly to say that all subspecies of tiger are endangered. At the beginning of the 20th century there were eight subspecies, but they have now been reduced to five. There are many reasons for the tiger’s place on the endangered species list, the primary being poachers illegally selling the tiger’s body parts for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, other threats such as habitat loss have also caused tiger numbers to shrink.

Yet another reason for the reduction in tiger numbers has received some attention lately. Loss of prey items has always been a large concern in tiger population, but a new paper by Bhattarai et al (2012) explores a different aspect of this problem. In much of the range, tigers often live in the same habitat and compete for food with their cousin the Leopard (Panthera pardus). In India, this isn’t much of a problem because tigers like to hunt larger prey items while the leopards prefer to hunt smaller prey items. However, due to increased human activity in the area, larger prey species are vanishing which means that tigers now must resort to hunting prey species that the leopard would usually hunt. This lack of food will often cause the big cats to hunt livestock, which brings tigers and leopards into conflict with humans. The researchers stress that larger prey species must be protected to help the tigers and leopards go back to their normal feeding patterns so as to reduce inter-species competition and conflict with humans.

Few other big cats come close to matching the tiger’s enormous strength and majestic beauty. None of the other species of big cat is as critically endangered as the tiger is and there are many projects currently underway attempting to increase, or even double the tiger’s population. Talks with the Indian government and a protected tiger pathway into neighboring Bhutan are among some of the ideas being discussed to help protect this beautiful animal. The World Wildlife Fund’s website lists several ways to action for you to help save tigers. Their struggle to survive in the modern world is reflected in the problems all endangered species face. So if we can save the Bengal Tiger, then there may be hope for other species teetering on the edge of existence.

 

I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has read my posts. It has been a pleasure and an honor to expand this blog with fresh stories and new feature. I’d like to believe at my posts were educational and entertaining. From here on out, OSU undergraduate and Tetrapod Volunteer Abby Miller, will be taking over as editor of the blog. May she entertain and enlighten you as much as hope that I have. Thank you.

References

“Bengal Tiger, Bengal Tiger Pictures, Bengal Tiger Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/bengal-tiger/

“Leopard, Leopard Pictures, Leopard Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic.

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/leopard/

Bhattarai, B. P., Kindlmann P. 2012 Interactions between Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris) and Leopard (Panthera pardus): Implications for Their Conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 21, 2075-2094.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-012-0298-y/fulltext.html

“Bengal Tiger.” WorldWildlife.org. World Wildlife Fund. http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/bengal-tiger

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