Monday, September 27, 2010
It is still the Year of the Tiger, so I guess I had better tell you about some more kinds of tigers while I'm thinking about it. So that's why today I am going to tell you about Bengal Tigers. Sometimes these tigers are called Indian Tigers or Royal Bengal Tigers. Their fancy scientific name is Panthera tigris tigris. They are the most common type of tiger, and they live in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, and southern Tibet. They are the national animal of India and Bangladesh.
Nobody knows exactly how many Bengal tigers there are, but people think there are about 1,411 in India, 200 in Bangladesh, 155 in Nepal, and 67-81 in Bhutan. These are not very big numbers, as you can see, so that is why the Bengal tiger is ENDANGERED. And the way it mostly got to be endangered is because the tiger habitat is getting smaller, and also people keep killing the tigers to get their skins and bones to sell, which it is illegal to do, but that doesn't stop them because they can make lots of money by doing it. Mostly, the skins are sold in Nepal and China. And the tiger bones are sold in China because they are used in folk medicine for stuff like rheumatism and for making muscles stronger.
India has set up a bunch of reserves for tigers in the foothills of the Himalayas. The people there are trying to make a safe place for the tigers so that no one will kill them, and also so they can have lots of baby tigers. Of course, there are Bengal tigers in zoos all over the world, too, but I don't think there is any plan to teach these tigers to be wild again.
Bengal tigers can be yellow or orange, with black or brown stripes. But they can also be white with black or brown stripes, or white with no stripes at all. Bengal tigers can even be black with tawny, yellow, or white stripes. A boy tiger weighs about 420 pounds and is 6 feet long, with a 3-foot tail. A girl tiger weighs 310 pounds and is 8 feet long, including her tail. Tigers have a roar that can be heard almost two miles away!
The places where Bengal tigers like to live are grasslands, rainforests, scrub forests, deciduous forests, and mangrove swamps. Their stripes help them stay hidden while they are stalking their prey, and then when they get close enough, they pounce. Bengal tigers have fangs that are 4 inches long, which is the longest of any animal in the cat family. They also have big, retractable claws that help them climb trees or kill prey. And these tigers are so strong that they can drag their prey almost half a mile, even if the prey is heavier than they are.
Tigers don't eat any veggies or fruit. They only eat meat. And the kind of meat they eat is stuff like wild boar, water buffalo, antelope, and deer. Sometimes they also eat smaller animals such as hares, monkeys, or peacocks. Or they might eat a baby elephant or a baby rhino, if they can get one, or maybe some yummy dead animal that they find lying around. And occasionally they eat other predators, like leopards, wolves, jackals, and crocodiles. Sometimes tigers eat livestock, which makes farmers mad, and then maybe the farmers will shoot the tigers, which is illegal, but they do it anyway, to protect their livestock. Usually, tigers don't eat people, but if people get into their territory or too close to a mama tiger's cubs, those people might get killed and eaten.
Lions like to hang out in groups, but tigers don't do that. And the main reason they don't is because the daddy tigers don't help at all with raising the tiger cubs. So mostly what happens is that all these tigers stake out a territory for themselves, and they mark it with urine so that every other tiger knows it is already claimed. The male tigers usually have bigger territories than the females. Then they mostly stay out of each other's territories until it's time to breed.
Male tigers are all grown up when they are 4-5 years old, and females are grown up when they are 3-4 years old. After that, they can make baby tigers. Usually, a mama tiger will have between 1 and 4 cubs in a nice, hidden place in the bush or in a cave or somewhere like that. The cubs weigh about 2 pounds each when they are born, and their eyes and ears are closed. They stay with their mom until they are almost 2 years old, and then they go find their own territories.
Anyway, that's most of the important information I found out about Bengal tigers. It is very sad that they and all the other kinds of tigers are so ENDANGERED. I hope none of the tigers that are extant right now go extinct, like some other kinds of tigers already did. If that happened, the situation would be even sadder than it already is.