Bengal tiger is a subspecies of tiger, which is found in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. One of the most common tiger subspecies, it is also found in a number of other Asian countries, like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tibet, etc. Usually Royal Bengal Tigers of India are reddish-brown to rust-brown in color with black stripes all over. However, a mutation may result in their color being white also. Such a tiger is known as the White tiger. Bengal tiger is the national animal of both the Indian subcontinent as well as Bangladesh.
Bengal tiger has a coat of reddish-brown to rust-brown color, with
black stripes and a white underbelly. The head and body of a male tiger
measures 6 to 9 feet in length. Its tail may grow as long as 3 feet. An
average Royal Bengal tiger has a weight of somewhere between 400 and 660
pounds (180 and 300 kg), though some tigers have been found to weigh
more than 300 kg also. Its shoulder height may measure upto 3 feet (0.97
m). The maximum length of the skull may be around 10 to 15 inches (250
to 380 mm).
A female Bengal tiger may grow to a length of 5 to 6 feet in length
(only head and body). Its tail is may be around 2 to 3 feet long.
Standing at a shoulder height of around 2.5 feet, female Bengal tigers
may weigh around 250 to 450 pounds (110 to 200 kg). Their maximum skull
length may be about 8 to 12 inches length. The largest Bengal tiger seen
till date weighed close to 390 kg.
The natural habitat of Royal Bengal tigers comprises of Indian
grasslands, subtropical and tropical rainforests, scrub forests, wet and
dry deciduous forests and mangroves. The animal is found inhabiting the
Asian countries of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Tibet.
In India, Bengal tigers are found mainly in the Bengal region.
Bengal tigers of India survive on a purely carnivorous diet. Their prey
primarily comprises of medium and large-sized animals, like wild boar,
deer, gaurs, water buffalo, young Asian Elephants and rhino calves. They
may also stalk small animals, namely hares, monkeys, langurs and
peacocks. At times, Bengal tigers may hunt other predators like
leopards, wolves, jackals, foxes, crocodiles and dholes. They can eat
upto about 40 kg (84 lb) of meat at a time and then go without eating
for days at a stretch.
Bengal tiger is mainly a solitary creature, which forms alliances only
during the mating period. It is a nocturnal creature, which prefers to
hunt at night. Bengal tigers are extremely good tree climbers and are
also quite apt at swimming. Infact, they swim quite frequently to ambush
their prey, which are drinking or swimming or trying to escape.
Mating usually takes place either during winter season or during spring
season. The mating period lasts for 20 to 30 days, during which one can
hear loud and distinct communication calls. The cub stays with the
mother and siblings till two years of age, after which it goes off to
wander on its own.
The population of Bengal tigers, throughout the world, is estimated to
be approximately 4,500. Of this, a major proportion (around 3000 tigers)
lives in the Indian subcontinent. Early 1990s saw the population of
tigers in India declining at a fast pace, because of large-scale
poaching as well as habitat loss. Tiger Conservation Program, known as
Project Tiger, was started in India to improve the status of tigers.
However, it success is open to question till date.
The major threats to the Bengal tiger comprise of poaching and habitat
destruction. They are hunted for their teeth, nails and skin and even
killed for their other parts used in East Asian medicines. Urbanization
and revenge killing has also contributed to the deteriorating population
of the animal.
White tiger of India is not a separate subspecies of tiger. Rather, it
is an individual specimen of the ordinary tiger, with a different
mutation. In tigers, a genetic condition may cause paler coloration,
resulting in the birth of a tiger that is white in color. Most of the
cases of white tigers have been seen in the Bengal tigers. However, once
can find such mutation in the captive Siberian tigers as well as several
other subspecies. White tigers have white-to-crème colored fur.
Their noses are pink and the stripes on their body are gray or
chocolate-brown in color. The eyes may be blue, green or amber.