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Common Name: Indian tiger

Scientific Name: Panthera tigris

Description: The tiger is the largest of the living cats. The Indian tiger is second only to the Siberian tiger in size. Their power is tremendous. Male Indian tigers frequently weigh in excess of 250 kg and indiviudals in excess of 380 kg are verified. Tigers may capture prey items in excess of 900 kg. Grzimek reports a tiger dragging an adult gaur cattle a distance of 12 m. Thirteen men later tried to move the carcass and were unable.

Man-eating: Although most tigers keep from settled areas, they do have the distinction of holding the record for man-eating. The Champawat tigress took 436 lives before she was shot by Jim Corbett. India's Corbett National Park was named in honor of his lifelong effort to preserve habitat for the tiger. Corbett wrote a number of books. His most famous and one which is regularly read by our zoo's staff is Man-eaters of Kumaon. (The BBC also did a video on his life distributed by National Geographic in the states. It is apparently out of print but can usually be found in a large library system.) Currently, the Sundarbans region of the Ganges delta typically loses the most lives each year to tiger attack. If you'd like to assist the families of those killed by tigers, click here.

Range: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma

Habitat: Basic requirements of suitable prey, potable water, and safe cover allow the tiger to live in savannah, tropical forest, cool evergreen forest, swamp, or rocky terrain.

Diet: Carnivorous: cattle, buffalo, deer, pig, antelope, occasional fowl and available small mammals. Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 stalks yields a kill.

Social Life: An average of 2-4 cubs weighing 1 kg are born after a 103 day gestation. They accompany their mothers from the den around six months and have been known to kill effectively by the end of their first year of life. Although it was thought that adult males would kill their own cubs on sight, recent research indicates some levels of family contact with both parents and cubs. Mothers rear cubs until age two at which time the cubs strike out on their own. Approximately 50% of cubs will die before this time, however. Females reach maturity between ages three and four. Males mature between ages four and five. One male's territory generally includes three to four females. Each individual keeps to his or her territory. Males will aggressively fight over territory. Sharing of kills between neighboring females, however, has been observed. Because of the conditions facing an aging cat in the wild, many cats live between 10 and fourteen years. In captivity with proper care, tigers regularly live between the late teens and mid-twenties with negligible infant mortality.

Conservation: After World War I, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers of eight subspecies. Today, only five subspecies remain. Caspian, Javan, and Bali tigers are extinct. Recent reports indicate of the remaining five subspecies, the Indian tiger is the only one likely to survive much past the the turn of the century. Poaching for body parts of the tiger to be sold as traditional medicines in Eastern markets greatly threaten this species. Habitat loss also looms with the lack of green corridors creating isolated populations. IUCN, USDI, and CITES all list the tiger as endangered.

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