BIG CAT OF THE EAST
Tigers are the largest cats alive. Some may weigh over 700 lbs, as compared to the around 400 lbs. of most lions. The record for the largest cat is held by a captive tiger that weighed nearly 1,000 lbs. Modern tigers live mainly in eastern and southeast Asia. Another interesting fact about tigers is that no two have the same stripe pattern. Each is unique, like human fingerprints. Tigers are also one of the only cats besides jaguars that enjoy swimming!
|Like most cats, tigers live in solitude. The only groups of tigers are mothers with cubs. Adults only meet to mate. Tigers must learn all their survival skills from their mother, unlike lions that learn from the pride. The survival rate of cubs tends to be low: in a study of a tigress named Sita by the National Geographic society, less than half of the cubs born over a 10 year period survived. This information should no be taken to assume that the tiger is a poorly adapted animal. Some of the tiger's difficulty in surviving is the result of human activity.|
Tigers live mainly in forested or brush areas, where the stripe pattern is excellent camouflage. They hunt mainly at night, and depending on the area hunt a variety of prey. Tigers in India hunt mainly deer, while Siberian tigers hunt mostly moose, elk, and boar. Tigers may even attack young rhinos or elephants if they can. At the other extreme, they may take small rodents as prey.
Some tigers are known to carry a recessive gene that makes the background coat color white instead of the normal orange. These white tigers are not albinos, though. They still have color pigment in their eyes and stripes. White tigers appear pure white with black or dark brown stripes, and usually have blue eyes. They are rare and usually don't survive in the wild, but some are kept in zoos and circuses. The two images of white tigers shown here are of a female Bengal tiger named Kitra, who lives in a zoo in Lansing Michigan. I have read of the opposite condition of black (or Melanistic) tigers existing, but have never seen pictures of one.
Unfortunately, tigers have a bad reputation among the big cats as man-eaters. One such example that has gotten attention is the Sunderbans in Bangladesh. NOTE: the attacks in the Sunderbans are not the result of a single or pair of tigers, but several over a long period.
The Sunderbans is a large patch of forest covering an area in Bangladesh and India. Over a period between 1956 - 1983 there have been 554 deaths attributed to tigers. Most casualties were or woodcutters in the forest who fell behind their group. Researchers are not sure what causes the tigers to attack humans, since there is an abundance of prey in the area. Oddly enough, a very unusual measure to prevent tiger attacks has been successful : people entering the woodlands have begun to wear masks on the backs of their heads, giving the appearance that they are facing both ways.
sources: 1. "Big Cats: Kingdom of Might" Tom Brakefield. Voyaguer press, Stillwater MN. 1993.
2."Sita : Life of a Wild Tigress" National Geographic.Vol.192, No. 6. December 1997 (36-45)
TIGERS AND HUMANS
Although tigers have the bad reputation as man-eaters (even more so than other big cats) people admire tigers as symbols of royalty much like lions. The role of the lion is replaced by the tiger in the east. The reason is probably the same, the tiger is the dominant predator of it's range. It posses the same grace and strength humans admire in lions. Tigers have also been assigned 'magical powers'. In some Eastern countries tiger bones and other parts are used for medicinal purposes. This has led to an unfortunate decrease in tigers as they are poached to meet the demands for these medicines.
There are programs aimed at tiger conservation in the US and abroad, and many have been successful. With continued support, tigers may not face extinction in the future.
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