Ranthambore National Park, India
IUCN status : Endangered
Tigers are the largest wild cats in the world. They are as powerful as 13 wrestlers. They can reach a length of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) and weigh as much as 300 kg. They are believed to have walked the earth for a long time. Fossils are found which dates back to 2 million years. They don an orange coat and are the only cats patterned with broad black stripes. Their stripes are not limited to the fur but are deep imprinted on their skin also. The stripes offer them a perfect camouflage in the bushes and help them to sneak on their prey stealthily. The stripes on the forehead of a tiger looks like the Chinese character that means "King." The stripes on each tiger are unique, like human fingerprints. Scientists believe that the white spots behind the ears of a tiger help tiger cubs follow their mothers through the shady forest. The white spot is called an "ocelli."
Tiger cubs leave their mother when they are around 2 years of age and half of them don’t survive till that time. A group of tigers is known as an ‘ambush’ or ‘streak’.
Tigers are good swimmers and can swim up to 6 kilometres. Tigers have been known to reach speeds up to 65 kmph in land. Tigers can easily jump over 5 meters in length and 3 meters in height.
A tiger is an ambush predator and hunts with stealth. They have an incredible night vision which is five times better than that of humans. Even then, less than 10% of hunts end successfully for tigers. A tiger's upper canine is about 4 inches (10 cm) long, which is about the size of a man's finger. An adult tiger can consume up to 40 Kg of meat in one meal and will often stay with its kill or bury it to return and dine over a period of days. It may not kill again for four or five days. Tiger is a solitary cat and is quite comfortable in stalking preys more than 30 kg. Usually large ungulates like Sambar, form their favorite diet. But long periods of starvation compel them to hunt down larger mammals like rhinos, elephant cubs, gaurs etc. Tigers or a group of tigers are very protective about their territories where they hunt. They mark their territories by urinating (scent marking) on trees and other rocky surfaces. The territory of a tiger extends from 20-400 sq km. Tiger's roar can be heard from up to 3 Km away.
A tiger spends about 18 hours a day sleeping. The average lifespan of a wild tiger is 10 - 15 years. After the extinction of Caspian, Bali and Javan Tiger, it is believed that between all the remaining subspecies (Bengal Tiger, Siberian Tiger, South China Tiger, Sumatran Tiger and Indochinese Tiger), there are only 3,000 to 4,500 individuals left in the wild.