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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Indian Tigers

The legend:
Irrespective of the culture or language, the tiger is considered as the undisputed ruler of its domain and it has had a profound influence on village life in Asia over the centuries. In popular belief the tiger is the oldest resident of the jungle, living there long before humans came. People working in their gardens or in the forest do not dare to call the big cat by its common names. Instead they use respectful titles like 'grandfather/grandmother in-the forest,' 'old man of the forest,' 'general' or 'king of the forest.'

The tiger is variously feared, respected, admired and distrusted depending on the context. The popular beliefs swing between its power to help or harm, save or destroy; although, in Sumatra at least the final analysis is that the tiger is thought of as a good and just animal and a friend rather than a foe, who can be called on in times of illness or difficulty.

Variations of colours in tigers:
The majority of tigers are tawny brown in color with dark stripes and whitish stomachs. Reports and records indicate however, that a few wild tigers have been seen in unusual colors, including all white and all black .

Tiger facts:
Weight: Siberian tigers are the heaviest subspecies at 500 or more pounds (225 kg), with males heavier than females. The lightest subspecies is the Sumatran; males weigh about 250 pounds (110 kg) and females around 200 pounds (90 kg).

Measurements: Depending on the subspecies, the head-body length of a tiger is about 41/2 to 9 feet (1.4-2.8 m). The length of the tail is 3 to 4 feet (90-120 cm). The foot pads vary in size with age, resulting in inaccurate estimates when used in censusing wild populations.

Eyes: Tigers have round pupils and yellow irises (except for the blue eyes of white tigers). Due to a retinal adaptation that reflects light back to the retina, the night vision of tigers is six times better than that of humans.

Claws: Like domestic cats, tiger claws are retractable. Tiger scratches on trees serve as territorial markers.

Stripes: No one knows exactly why tigers are striped, but scientists think that the stripes act as camouflage, and help tigers hide from their prey. The Sumatran tiger has the most stripes of all the tiger subspecies, and the Siberian tiger has the fewest stripes. Tiger stripes are like human fingerprints; no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes.

Life span: The life span of tigers in the wild is thought to be about 10 years. Tigers in zoos live twice as long.

Cubs: Tiger cubs are born blind and weigh only about 2 to 3 pounds (1 kg), depending on the subspecies. They live on milk for 6-8 weeks before the female begins taking them to kills to feed. Tigers have fully developed canines by 16 months of age, but they do not begin making their own kills until about 18 months of age.

Head: Often carries the Chinese mark of wang or king on the forehead.

Distribution: Tigers range from India to Siberia and South East Asia.

Habitat: Tigers prefer habitat is forest although they can also be found in grassland and swamp margins. They require sufficient cover, a good population of large prey and a constant water supply.

Diet: Their main prey species are large animals such as deer, buffalo and wild pigs, but they will also hunt fish, monkeys, birds, reptiles and sometimes even baby elephants. Occasionally, tigers kill leopards, bears and other tigers.

Reproduction: Females will give birth to 2-4 cubs after a gestation of 104 days. They will stay with their mother for up to two years before leaving to stake out their own territories. Males look for territories away from their birth site, but females may sometimes share their mothers territories

As with lions, male tigers may kill a female's cubs if the cubs are the offspring of another male. This ensures that the female will come into oestrus and bear the new male's offspring. They are active at dawn and dusk.

Conservation status: Tigers are on CITES: Appendix I and are listed as Endangered by the IUCN. They are illegally poached for their fur and other body parts, and suffer from habitat loss. The Chinese tiger (P.t.amoyensis) and the Siberian tiger (P.t.altaica) are under extreme threat of extinction.

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