Category Archives: Meet an Earthling

The Category might be a surprise for some at least! Well before Sci-fi made earthling synonymous with humans Earthling simply meant a resident of planet earth. So this is going to be a weekly look at one animal, bird, reptile or something along that ilk… We will get to know more about it i.e. where it lives, its lifespan, adaptations etc and about its status in today’s world (population wise).

Disappearing Stripes in the Year of The Tiger V

I have been writing about tigers in a series of posts titled “The Disappearing Stripes in the Year of The Tiger. The previous 4 can be found at the following links:

Part I – The Disappearing Stripes

Part II – The Amur Tiger

Part III – The Bengal Tiger

Part IVThe Sumatran Tiger

We have already come to know the Amur,Bengal and Sumatran tigers in the previous posts. Now in the final edition of the series we will learn about the last 2 endangered tiger sub-species The Indo-Chinese Tiger and the South Central Chinese Tiger.

The Indo Chinese Tiger Panthera tigris corbetti or the Indo Chinese tiger is found through out Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, malaysia and Southern China. Their numbers are believed to be around 300 in the wild according to the WWF and around 60 are captive in the zoos of US and Asia.

The Indo Chinese tiger is also commonly called the Malayan tiger. Males are much larger than females, and have more conspicuous cheek whiskers.  Males are 8’5″-9’4″ long (excluding the tail) and weigh between 370-430 pounds.  Females are 7’7″ – 8’8″ long and weigh under 300 pounds.  Black stripes on a reddish-ochre ground, with white throat, facial patches and belly.  Stripes are narrow.  Body color is a little lighter than that of the Sumatran tiger, which is the darkest of the tigers, and the striping at the front of the body is reduced.  In addition some stripes break up into a row of spots.

Most of the wild Indo Chinese tigers are in Thailand, while the other countries also have smaller populations. The Military regime in Myanmar has set aside what is the largest preserved area for tigers in the Hukaung Valley – a remote area of northern Myanmar about half the size of Switzerland – is now a protected tiger area. Due to restricted access to the border areas where the Indochinese tiger lives, relatively little is known about their population status.

Malaysia has been able to impose strict laws against poaching there by protecting the tigers which live there. Political and economic stability is one of the main aspects which could help the tiger survive. Where there is poverty the people tend to focus more on how to make a quick buck rather than what is happening to the tiger.

The South-Central China TigerOr the South China tiger Panthera tigris amoyensis is the most endangered of all 5 species and their numbers are estimated to be around a dozen in the wild at the most. No wild sighting of a South China Tiger has been made in the last 25 years. The South Central China Tiger population numbered around 4000 in the 1950’s and was officially hunted down to extinction as a pest! by 1996 the population was around 30 – 80 individuals approximately!  A few individuals may remain in the moist forests of southeast China, but the wild population is not thought to be viable. It is called by many scientists to be functionally extinct.

Source Wikipedia

The South China tiger is also considered to be a stem tiger – a species which is most closely related to the ancestors of the modern tigers.

Where is the Tiger headed?

There are numerous conservation efforts happening around the world to save the tiger. Today I read this study in The Public Library of Science – Biology journal online titled ” Bringing the Tiger Back from the Brink—The Six Percent Solution” The study has identified 42 source sites – sites which have 25 or more breeding females: there fore they can sustain or lead to a larger number tigers in years to come and sites also able to accommodate 50 breeding females.  India had 18 sites, the Indonesian island of Sumatra eight and the Russian far east six, with others in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Bangladesh. Their list excludes China, Cambodia, DPR Korea and Vietnam; as the data did not support any source sites there.

The cost of achieving this would be an additional $35 million a year in funding for law enforcement and monitoring, the report’s lead authors from the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society say. The World Bank, global conservation organization IUCN and Panthera, a big cat environmental group, also contributed to the study.

“The tiger is facing its last stand as a species,” John Robinson, executive vice president of conservation and science for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement. Of the tigers remaining in the wild, only about 1,000 are breeding females.

Scientists and conservationists believe that tigers can make a comeback if the most critical threats to their existence, poaching of the cats themselves and their prey, are addressed effectively and immediately” Setting up preserves is only the first step, stopping poaching and poachers, Getting rid of the market for animal products, educating people about the relevance of bio-diversity for their own survival if nothing else etc may help in protecting the remaining tigers and make the doubling of tiger population in the wild by the Next year of the Tiger – 2022 a reality!

Courtesy WWF

In November this year the 13 Tiger countries worldwide will get unite in St.Petersburg for the Tiger summit of 2010 – The Year of the Tiger and the UN’s year of Bio Diversity. The aim is to put in place a frame work to make sure the tiger survives and lives without fear of extinction by 2020.

The good thing is Tigers are cats – and so breed easily. Given adequate space, prey, and protection from poaching, wild tiger populations can increase. Lets hope it works out, for the tigers and for the future generations who will call the earth their home.


Sources and Relevant Reading :

Bringing the Tiger back from The Brink – the 6% solution

Global Tiger Initiative

Save the Tiger Fund

Myanmar’s tiger preserve

WWF Tiger Initiative

The Disappearing Stripes In The Year Of The Tiger IV: Sumatran Tiger

I have been writing about tigers in a series of posts titled “The Disappearing Stripes in the Year of The Tiger. The previous 3 can be found at the following links:

Part I – The Disappearing Stripes

Part II – The Amur Tiger

Part III – The Bengal Tiger

This is the 4th part of “The Disappearing Stripes in the year of the Tiger” getting to know the Sumatran Tiger this week. The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the smallest of the 5 surviving species of tigers today. They are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Courtesy Bricmak under Creative Commons Attribution

Picture Courtesy Brian Mckay

The Sumatran Tiger has lived exclusively, for over a million years, in the once extensive moist tropical jungles of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Their population in the wild is now heavily fragmented and is estimated to range between 400 and 500 individuals. Groups of between a few and several dozen tigers can be found principally in and around Sumatra’s national parks.

What makes the Sumatran Tiger even more special as it has been genetically isolated in its unique environment which is an island, away from all the other species of tigers in Asia.

Interesting facts about the Sumatran Tiger:

  • Sumatran male tigers average around 8’ in length and weigh around 265pounds.
  • The Sumatran tigers have narrower stripes which make it easier for them to move in the jungle.
  • Male Sumatran tigers have a more bearded and maned appearance.
  • Webbing between their toes, when spread, enables the Sumatran tiger to be very fast swimmer.
  • Less than 500 Sumatran tigers live in the wild in Sumatra.
  • The largest population of about 110 Sumatran tigers lives in Gunung Leuser National Park.
  • Indonesia has 65 captive Sumatran tigers living in zoos, 85 in European zoos and 20 in Australian zoos. There are 70 tigers managed by North American zoos.
  • Loss of their natural habitat often leads tigers to move into settled areas in search of food, where they then encounter problems.
  • The Sumatran has the darkest coat of all the tigers ranging from reddish-yellow through to deep orange, its broad black stripes are closely spaced and often doubled this helps them hide in the forest.
  • Their Nocturnal vision is 6times as sharp as ours!

You can do your bit by helping save tigers HERE

Help Save the Tiger, it is our responsibility.

Info on Sumatran Tigers Sources:

Honolulu Zoo

The Tiger Trust

Tiger world

Kingdom Of The Tiger In Decline

This is part III of the series Disappearing Stripes In The Year Of The Tiger III

Part II

Part I

Read on …

This week we will meet the Royal Bengal Tiger, Indigenous to the Indian Subcontinent and revered for its beauty and strength from time immemorial. The Royal Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris is the national Animal of India and has been immortalized in many a folk lore. The number of tigers in India (which incidentally has the highest number of tigers in the wild) has dropped drastically to 1300-1500 as of last count. Approximately 2100 Bengal tigers survive in the wild according to the World Wildlife Fund, the rest of them are 200 in Bangladesh, 150 in Nepal and 100 in Bhutan. Bhutan in the last month set aside the largest tiger preserve in the world in hopes of protecting this beautiful animal from extinction.

Growing up in India almost every kid read about Jim Corbett and his “Maneaters of Kumaon”. I remember reading the book when I was in 3rd grade and being haunted by images of a tiger stalking me for many many nights 🙂 The book has many stories about how Corbett hunted down tigers which had turned man eaters in the foot hills of the Himalaya’s. The book in itself is enthralling, he keeps the reader enamored by his narratives which are vivid and very descriptive of the fauna, flora and life in the villages he was protecting. It takes one back with him while he hunts down the Tiger, for a kid reading one her first big books it was as close to a safari as possible. Corbett was also a naturalist and keeping this in mind the Indian Government named the first one of the nation’s national parks after him. The Corbett National park in the foothills of the Himalaya’s is home to the Bengal tiger, the Asian elephant and many species of birds and animals.

Growing older my interest in the Tiger grew with me and I would read up anything and everything available. It’s then that I realized that in spite of its fearsome reputation Tigers tend to avoid human interaction at all costs. They are solitary except in the mating season and of course mom and cubs who stay together for 2-3 years.

By the way, I have always loved the tiger more than the lion and have often thought that if Africa had tigers, may be Tiger would have been king 😀

Bengal Tigers historical range is from the alpine Himalayas to the rain forests of southern Western Ghats and from the dry forests of Rajasthan to the moist forests of north-east India. India has many tiger preserves all across the country but poaching has been getting increasingly prevalent leading to the drastic drop in tiger population. Sariska Tiger Preserve lost all 26 of its tigers to poaching and all that is left is a deafening silence with no answers or arrests made…

On the 18th of May of 2010 Jhurjhura Tigress of Bandhavgarh one of India’s premier tiger preserves, was killed by the very men who are paid and supposed to be the caretakers. Some local politician and a group of pals descended on the preserve in the night after hours for a joy ride and the forest guards who are there to keep people from venturing into the preserve at night decided to take the “tourists” in for a joy ride. The driver of the jeep somehow managed to not see the Tigress who was found the next morning succumbing to her injuries. In death she left behind her litter of 3 cubs. One of them was tragically killed on the 10th of August 2010 by another tiger which entered the enclosure where the 3 cubs were kept supposedly safe by the wildlife officials… Read the news report here

The Bengal tiger’s coat is reddish orange with narrow black, gray or brown stripes, generally in a vertical direction. The underside is creamy or white; a rare variant has a chalky white coat with darker stripes and icy blue eyes. The stripes on a tiger are like fingerprints each distinct from the other.

The number of wild Tigers in India dropped starting in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, thanks to the British and Indian royalty alike going out on elephants with huge hunting parties to hunt them for “Sport”.  Like with other animals and people, fire arms changed the dynamic totally against the powerful Tiger.


The size of tiger territories varies greatly by locality, season and prey density (the amount of prey in a given area). In areas with high prey densities, tiger territories tend to be smaller in size because ample prey may be found in smaller vicinity. For male tigers in Ranthambhore India; the prey concentrations are high and male tigers have territories that range in size from 5 to 150 km2 (2 to 60 mi2). In Siberia the prey concentrations are much lower and male tiger territories range in size from 800 to 1200 km2 (320 to 480 mi2). Seasonality in terms of prey migrations, food availability and weather may also affect prey populations and therefore the size of tiger territories.

There are many sites which have asked for people to join in (links at the bottom of the page) and demand action from the Government of India for the death of the Jhurjhura tigress, which has like always been quiet about the incident and probably hoping it too will go away like the Sariska tigers that vanished into thin air. It is unbelievable the callousness of people in power who can do something to stop this magnificent creature from going extinct in our lifetime, paying lip service as always seems to be the preferred course of action with no real action taken. It will be a pity is this beautiful earthling ceases to exist in the wild and gets relegated to the zoos…

Fun Footnotes:

  • Bengal tigers were considered as second in size to their Siberian cousins; recent studies have suggested Bengals on average could be larger than all other tiger species.
  • A tiger’s roar can be heard as far as 2 mi (3 km) away.
  • An integral component of the Tigers diet are large-bodied prey weighing about 20 kg (45 lb) or larger.
  • Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes).
  • Tigers attack humans and livestock only once they are unable to hunt for prey in the forest (due to old age or ill health).
  • Tigers are hunted as trophies, and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Since tigers hunt mostly at dusk and dawn their stripes help them hide in the shadows of tall grasses. They stalk and pounce because they are not able to chase prey a long distance.
  • The territorial male tiger usually travels alone, marking his boundaries with urine, droppings, and scratch marks to warn off trespassers.
  • Bengal tigers which live in the Sundarban delta have survived on salt water forever, scientists are awed by how nature has adapted them to live without fresh water.
  • White tigers are Bengal tigers that have pigmented stripes and blue eyes, they are not albinos.
  • The first white tiger was wild, but the ones we see in captivity are mostly inbred which makes them weaker as generations go. We have to put a stop to this inbreeding for the sake of the species survival.
  • Tigers may drag their prey to water to eat. They are commonly seen in the shade or wading in pools to cool off.
  • A tiger can consume 88pounds of meat in one feeding!
  • Human population increases lead to habitat conflicts with the Tiger, as man encroaches on to its remaining home the tiger sometimes is left with no choice but to come after the encroacher.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the heaviest tiger known was a huge male hunted in 1967, measuring 322 cm in total length between pegs (338 cm over curves) and weighing 388.7 kg (857 lb). This specimen was hunted in northern India by David Hasinger and is actually on exhibition in the Smithsonian Institution, in the Mammals Hall.
  • The Tiger’s lone predator is the Human.

Tigers, as with all Apex or top-of-the-food-chain predators help balance populations by keeping prey populations in check. When a tiger has eaten its fill, the abandoned prey becomes food for a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Some cultures believe that powdered tiger bones have medicinal values. Unfortunately, tigers are in high demand to supply this market.

Unless the authorities take charge and hold poachers and dealers’ responsible deteriorating numbers and extinction in the wild during our generation will be the only reality for the Tiger… I hope we will take action and protect this amazing, beautiful cat for the generations to come.

Indian tiger territory map.

What are the respective Governments promising to do?

Government of India’s Conservation project is called “Project Tiger” and in its 2010 issue of “STRIPES” magazine included a statement which read as follows:

Tiger conservation is important to protect biodiversity and to preserve a vital part of our natural heritage for the benefit of communities dependent on nature and for our children and their children. This crisis of extinction has to be averted. Therefore, We, the conservation leaders of sovereign tiger range countries (TRCs), reaffirm our commitments to the implementation of national tiger conservation efforts. We also reaffirm our commitments to the related international agreements and conventions, including, inter alia, CBD and CITES.

  1. 1. The Manifesto on Combating Wildlife Crime in Asia, adopted in Pattaya, Thailand, in April 2009.
  2. The Recommendations of the Global Tiger Workshop in Kathmandu, October 2009. And we commit to a shared goal of reversing the declining trend in tiger numbers. We strive to increase the occupancy and numbers of the remaining wild tigers within each country, and jointly strive to double these globally by the year 2022.

If this works it would be best news for Tigers by the next “Year of the Tiger” i.e. 2022… Keeping fingers crossed and supporting the oraganizations which work on the ground pushing for more action to protect these magnificent big cats, the King of India’s Jungles!


List of Organizations which are working hard to make sure the Tiger Survives:

Belinda Wright’s Wildlife Protection Society of India

The Global Tiger Initiative

National Geographic Big cat initiative

Indian Governments Tiger conservation Website

World Wide Fund for nature

THUMBNAIL source by Creative Commons attribution Claodio Gennari


Source for Tiger Info:

STRIPES magazine Jan-Feb 2010 Issue

Michael J Vickers website with info and pictures on India’s Tigers

Jhurjhura tigress a month before her death a blog

Busch gardens website

National Geographic

An interesting blog

Closing of a Chinese Zoo

Interesting Tiger movies :

The two brothers – Well made film check out the trailer here

Check out Corbett’s Books :

Man-Eaters of Kumaon (Oxford India Paperbacks)

The Temple Tiger and More Man-Eaters of Kumaon (Oxford India Paperbacks)






The Disappearing Stripes In the Year of The Tiger II

I am continuing from my last post in the “Meet an earthling” series catch up here In this post let us get to know the Amur tiger better.

Image Courtesy WCS website

Characteristics, Habitat and Adaptations

The Amur tiger previously called the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is now restricted to the Cold Boreal Forests in Eastern parts of Russia, northeastern China, northern regions of North Korea. They were called the Siberian tiger because they were found all over most of Siberia and now their range is restricted to the areas specified above which is one either side of the Amur river hence the name Amur tiger.

Amur tigers live in harsh environments, where extremely cold temperatures and deep snow are common. They are the largest amongst cats and produce more heat in the cold climates. They have thicker fur for insulation and their body is well adapted to the cold climate. They also have a layer of fat on their flanks and belly which helps protect them from the elements.

Amur tigers have a more pronounced ruff of fur around their neck and they have extra fur on their paws to protect them from the cold. Coat is golden-orange with dark stripes, with all cats markings being different and distinctive like fingerprints. They also have some patches of white on their belly, chest, throat and muzzle. Amur tigers have more white and fewer stripes than other tiger sub-species. Colors help it hide in its environment: white is like snow, black like shadows and yellow like dead oak leaves.


According to the WWF the Amur tiger was on the verge of extinction in the 1940’s with their numbers in the wild falling to around 40! Thanks to vigorous antipoaching and other conservation efforts by the Russians with support from many partners, including WWF, the Amur tiger population recovered and has remained stable throughout the last decade or so. Now yet again thanks to illegal poaching, destruction of habitat and killing of its prey the numbers have drastically dropped in the wild.

Conservation groups are working hard to create a conservation area in the Russian far east without roads crisscrossing the region. The people who are keeping tabs say tigers seem to mostly die by human hand than anything else in the Amur region.

What is being done? Check out the links below :

Wildlife Conservation Society

Article in today’s Live about creation of the world’s largest Tiger Preserve in Myanmar

Alternatives for  Chinese traditional medicines which use tiger bones

Amur Tiger at the Columbus Zoo

Interesting Facts:

  • It is estimated there are less than 400 Amur tigers in the wild.
  • A typical male Amur tiger, the largest of the tiger subspecies, may weigh more than 500 pounds and measure nearly nine feet from nose to tip of the tail. The males can be up to 11 feet long!
  • Females are smaller — up to nine feet long and about 370 pounds
  • Amur tigers depend on large antelopes etc for food.
  • Killing the prey – If it’s a small animal, they kill it with a bite to the back of the neck, breaking the spinal cord. If it’s a large animal, they kill it by suffocating it with a bite to the throat.
  • They are mostly solitary,except for mothers and their dependent young. Amur tigers generally live alone in their individual home range.
  • A male usually defends a large territory (up to 4,000 square miles!) that overlaps the ranges of multiple females.
  • They let each other know about their presence by scent markings and scratches etc on trees
  • It is the largest cat in the world.
  • Spoors (footprints) of a male are rounded and impressions of toe pads in front are blunter, females are elongated and toe pads are narrower and sharper shaped.
  • One tiger provides 13-26 pounds of powered tiger bone and in just Korea they use 3 to 4000 pounds a year.
  • Tigers are one of the four cats that roar, others are lion, leopard and jaguar.
  • Tigers are the only large wild cats with stripes.
  • The stripe patterns of a tiger are not symmetrical from one side of the animal to the other.
  • Tigers rarely climb trees — but they can!
  • For less than a dollar a day you can adopt a tiger through WWF

Watch a couple of videos about Save The tiger from the WWF

After being awed by its strength and magnificent beauty since I was a child I wonder if any one of us could really look a tiger in the eye and say

“We admired everything about you, except your very existence”

like the author of the video says… If we care about the tiger the time to act if now, support the organizations which are educating the public and trying to help put in stricter laws to stop the poaching. Educate ourselves with what we can help to protect this amazing earthling alive in its natural habitat not just in zoos… We owe it to the future generations and to the planet we call home. If we take action now i.e in 2010 the year of the Tiger, we may be able to double their numbers in the wild by 2022 the next year of the Tiger.

We have the stripes of the tiger immortalized in stories, in cartoons, in animal print clothing and what not… we all profess we love the tiger, it is time to act… I believe We owe it to the Tiger to keep it alive.

Next week we will look at the Beautiful Bengal Tiger, India’s national Animal Threatened by it’s own keepers…

The Disappearing Stripes In the Year of The Tiger

2010 according to the Chinese Lunar calendar is the “Year of the Tiger” , The Tiger is the third sign in the Chinese Zodiac cycle, and it is a sign of bravery. Yet the Tiger population in the wild is steadily declining… China is one of the major consumers of Tiger parts from bone to skin. Illegal poaching and logging is threatening to wipe out this magnificent being from the wilderness.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” by those standards I wonder how many nations could be considered as making progress, I believe most of us are regressing to levels unknown… Why is it that we human’s consider the suffering of animals as lesser than that of a fellow human? Is it because they don’t speak out language? Don’t they bleed when cut and don’t they cry when hurt… wonder when humanity will open its eyes to the reality that animals like humans  have a place on this earth all their own and they have a right to be here as much as we do.

This week in meet an earthling I thought we will look at one of my favorite cats – The Tiger Panthera tigris. Tigers were found all across Asia from Eastern Turkey to the Caspian Sea south of the Tibetan Plateau, Eastward to Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk, in Northern Iran, Indus valley of Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and the  islands of Java and Bali. Now they are pretty much restricted to some parts of India, North eastern China, Korea, Indonesia, parts of Russian Siberia and the foothills of the Himalayas.

Tiger distribution map Courtesy wikipedia

There are eight recognized species of the Panthera tigris of which 3 are already extinct. The eight are as follows (the ones striked off are extinct and the ones in red are endangered.)

  1. Panthera tigris altaica – The Amur Tiger (earlier called the Siberian Tiger) EXTREMELY ENDANGERED 300 in the wild
  2. Panthers tigris tigris – Bengal Tiger ENDANGERED 1800 in the wild
  3. Panthera tigris corbetti – Indo-Chinese tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  4. Panthera tigris amoyensis – South-central Chinese Tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  5. Panthera tigris sumatrae – Sumatran Tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  6. Panthera tigris balica – Bali Tiger
  7. Panthera tigris sondaica – Javan Tiger
  8. Panthera tigris virgata – Trans Caucasus Tiger

Tigers are one of the 4 big cats of the family Panthera. They are one of the most exquisite cats around and one of the most identifiable. In the zoos they are a favorite with most of the visitors and yet in spite of all this attention their numbers in the wild have been dwindling drastically. Human encroachment on habitats and the use of tiger parts in ancient traditional medicine are the main reasons for their numbers dwindling in the wild.

Tigers are big cats, the length varies between 6’8″ (Sumatran) to 9′ plus (Siberian) and weigh between 170lbs (Sumatran) to 700 lbs (Amur).

Tigers have a reddish-orange coat with vertical black stripes along the flanks and shoulders that vary in size, length, and spacing. Some subspecies have paler fur and some are almost fully white with either black or dark brown stripes along the flanks and shoulders. The underside of the limbs and belly, chest, throat, and muzzle are white or light. White is found above the eyes and extends to the cheeks. A white spot is present on the back of each ear. The dark lines about the eyes tend to be symmetrical, but the marks on each side of the face are often asymmetrical. The tail is reddish-orange and ringed with several dark bands.

Tiger habitats include sufficient cover, proximity to water, and an abundance of prey sources. Bengal Tigers live in many types of forests, including wet; evergreen; the semi-evergreen of Assam and eastern Bengal; the mangrove forest of the Ganges Delta; the deciduous forest of Nepal, and the thorn forests of the Western Ghats. The tiger prefers denser vegetation, for which its camouflage coloring is ideally suited, and where a single predator is not at a disadvantage.

Fun facts:

  • Tigers are a Keystone species and are Apex Predators – i.e. they have no natural predators other than humans.
  • Tigers are the only big cats other than Jaguars which like to swim. It spends a lot of time in water when the temperature gets too warm and will also follow a prey into the water or carry dead prey across lakes.
  • Tigers can swim up to 4 miles!
  • Tigers are mostly solitary unless they are females with their litter.
  • The pattern of stripes is unique to each tiger, and thus could potentially be used to identify individuals like we use finger prints to identify people.
  • They are the heaviest cats in the wild with some Amur Tigers reaching a whopping 700pounds!
  • Retinal adaptation that reflects light back to the retina makes the night vision of tigers six times better than that of humans.
  • Bengal Tigers have the longest incisors  of any living cat; 3-4″ in length!!
  • Tigers are solitary and do not associate with mates except for mating.
  • Mothers and cubs stay together until the cubs are 2-3 years old i.e. ready to hunt and take care of themselves.
  • Longevity 8-10 years in the wild.
  • A Tiger roar (chuff) can be heard up to 2 miles away.
  • Around early 1900’s the number of Bengal tigers in India was approximated to be around 50,000; by 1972 it had dropped to 1800! through diligent efforts to conserve their habitat and protect the remaining tigers the numbers have climbed back to around 4000 by 2004… Even now there is poaching in the protected areas which is going un-punished and un-accounted which has resulted in the latest census of tigers at 1300-1500 tigers. . One example is the Jhurjhura tigress who had 3 cubs, was living in Bandhavgarh in India, a protected and well know Tiger Preserve and was mowed down by Government vehicles in the night check out this link and make yourself heard if you care.

If we do not take a stand this magnificent animal will become extinct in our life time… I shudder just thinking about, I believe we owe it to the coming generations that we work together to clean up our messes and leave the earth as intact as possible with all the species diversity it possesses. I can’t understand how human’s think it is alright to use an animals skin… to me it is unthinkable using another living beings skin as a cover as I believe the animal has the skin to protect itself same like us.

Live Green, live aware… Help the organizations which work on our behalf to save these magnificent animals that I believe is the least we can do…

Something Hopeful to end today’s post with; The Global Tiger Initiative which will be meeting in St.Petersburg Russia from September 14th through September 18th.

The Website states their goal as ” We aspire to a world where, by 2020, wild tigers across Asia will no longer face the risk of extinction – and will live in healthy populations within high conservation value landscapes that are managed sustainably for present and future generations.”

So may be stronger measures will be taken and we will end up protecting the tiger…

Image Credits @ spisharam

A Foot Note – I will write about each species of Tiger in detail starting next week.

“The Black Rhino” Not Really Black

“What do a Rhino, a child suffering from a fever in China and a rich man in Yemen have in common? “

To find the answer you will have to either learn about the Black Rhinoceros (meaning read my blog) or scroll all the way down 🙂

Well now you know our weekly earthling for this week is a Rhino! When I heard the Rhino we have at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) I wondered why it did not look Black to me! Then I learned Black was not the color of the rhino but was given to distinguish it from the “White” rhino which incidentally is not white (Funny Humans!!) but was derived from the Dutch word for “wide”! So Black and White Rhinos really can’t be distinguished by the color of their skin (as both look pretty much Grey!!) but by the upper lip; it is prehensile and pointed in the Black Rhino while it is wide in the white rhino.

The Black Rhino is a critically endangered species as a result of Poaching and habitat fragmentation. Relentless hunting of the species and clearances of land for settlement and agriculture resulted in the population being reduced from a probable several hundred thousand at the start of the century, to less than 2,500 by the early 1990s (the minimum population estimate in 1995 was approximately 2,410 (Emslie and Brooks 1999). Historically they were found all over Africa; South of the Sahara except the Congo Basin, from grass lands to deserts, tropical and subtropical. Now their range has been fragmented to Cameroon Kenya and South Africa.

Black Rhinos are herbivores and are solitary except during mating season, with a gestation period of 15 months and the female giving birth to a solitary calf. Offspring are weaned after 18months and are dependent on the mother for up to 4years! They generally stay within 25kilometers from a water source. Dominant males are extremely territorial and will fight any intruder. They are more active during the mornings and evenings and rest during mid day when it is really hot.

Lifespan is between 30-35 years in the wild and they live to be above 45 in captivity. They weigh between 1750 to 3000 pounds! They have 2 horns with the front one being longer. The Rhino skin is 1.5 to 2 centimeters thick and wallowing in mud helps protect them from insects and the sun!

Some Interesting Rhino facts:

  • Rhinos inhabited not just Africa and Asia but Europe and North America as well! No one knows why they disappeared from North America.
  • At present there are 5 species of Rhinos in the world; The Black, White, Indian, Javan and Sumatran.
  • All together they number around 24,000 in the wild with 1200 in captivity.
  • Throughout the 20th Century the Black Rhino was the most numerous of the world’s rhino species!
  • Their Numbers in the wild dropped by a whopping 90% in around 40 plus years!!
  • The Javan Rhinoceros is the most endangered large mammal species in the world!
  • The oldest Rhino in captivity was 49 years old.
  • Adult black rhinos defecate on dung piles as a means of communication, as it reveals to other rhinos how recently an individual was in a certain location.
  • Rhinos have poor eye sight (see up to 25-30 meters away) and rely on their sense of smell most.
  • Male rhinos do fight over territories and use their anterior horns in the fight very effectively.
  • Two countries have shown net increases in numbers of Black Rhino over the period 1980-2007: South Africa and Namibia, from estimated 630+300 in 1980 (Emslie and Brooks 1999) to 1,470 + 1,390, respectively in 2007 (AfRSG data 2008).
  • Rhino horn has two main consumers: traditional use in Chinese medicine, and ornamental use (for example, rhino horn is a highly prized material for making ornately carved handles for ceremonial daggers (Jambiyas) worn in some Middle East countries mostly Yemen).
  • About 90 percent of adult rhino deaths are caused by poaching.
  • Like the elephant, the rhino walks on its tip toes. The round heels of its feet are actually fatty tissue.
  • A rhino can run 25 to 30 mph for short distances.
  • In their native countries they are threatened because their horns are worth more than gold to the poachers.
  • The rhino’s horn is made of keratin the same stuff that makes up our hair and fingernails.
  • The black and white rhinoceros remain so closely related that they can still mate and successfully produce offspring.

What can be done to make sure that this beautiful species stays where it has for millions of years? We can support the organizations which are doing the needful to negate the issues plaguing these animals like The international Rhino Foundation or the IUCN OR you could go shopping follow this link to know how?

Another thing one can do is educating people to why some of the traditional believes are just not true and how there can be alternatives for those ways. May be sooner rather than later, people will awake to the plight of their fellow earthlings; who I believe have an equal right to live on this planet as we do.

Live Green!

An Indian Rhino who lost its horns to poachers.. what a shame… 



The IUCN Red Data List For the map and info

The Wikipedia for the awesome Picture

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium my favorite zoo 🙂

The Rhino Resource Center

Answer to the Riddle : Must be evident by now if not here it goes

They all think that the horn of the rhino is very valuable. To the rhino, it is very valuable because it uses its horn to defend itself and to fight other males when looking for a mate. Its sharp horn is a pretty dangerous weapon, and, if it breaks off, it will grow back. For the Child in China it could be part of a traditional medicine for fever( horn proven not to be medicinal) and the man in Yemen thinks the Rhino’s horn adds to his status on the handle of his dagger (Jambiya).”

Beaver The Sacred Center of The Land

Picture Source Nationalgeographic  

Wondering why that title? The Native Americans believed that the Beaver was the “sacred center” of the land because it creates rich habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Beavers prefer to dam streams in shallow valleys & much of the flooded area becomes wetlands; and wetlands are cradles of life with biodiversity that can rival tropical rain forests. Almost half of endangered and threatened species in North America rely upon wetlands for survival.

Beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that can sponge up floodwaters (the several dams built by each colony also slows the flow of floodwaters), prevent erosion, raise the water table and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment.

This week let us get to know the Beaver better…

  • Beavers are around 2-3.5feet long with a paddle like tail measuring between 7.5” to 12”.
  • Adult beavers weigh 40 to 60lbs (27kgs)
  • Beavers mate for life and give birth to 1-4 kits in spring. Both parents help in rearing the kit.
  • Beavers are semi-aquatic mammals which spend their life in and near shallow water bodies.
  • Beavers are well insulated by a pelage that consists of long over-fur (guard hairs) and dense under-fur. Their fine coats are waterproof naturally and made them a primary target of fur trappers when fur trade was rampant.
  • There are only 2 species of Beavers; they inhabit North America(Castor candensis), (Castor fiber) Europe  and Western Asia.
  • Beavers are active throughout the year through winter.
  • One Beaver can chop down 200 trees a year!
  • Beavers are amongst the largest rodents in the world and are herbivores which feed on Leaves, Barks, Twigs, Roots and Aquatic Plants.
  • They are a Keystone Species. (A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionate effect on its environment relative to its biomass. Such species affect many other organisms in an ecosystem and help to determine the types and numbers of various other species in a community. Source wikipedia ) Meaning removing them from the environment will impact the whole ecosystem around them.
  • Beavers are busy all the time re-engineering the habitat around them. They prefer banks of rivers or ponds which are shallow with slow flow or none at all.
  • They build dams to transform less suitable habitats to their liking.
  • Beaver homes are called “Lodges” and are built of branches and mud.  They are located strategically in the middle of the pond or water body with an accessible under water entrance.
  • The lodges are built to house colonies (more than one family peacefully co-existing).
  • Beavers build dams to create deep, still pools of water to protect against predators, and to float food and building materials.
  • They walk on land with an ungainly swaddle, but are graceful in water. Beaver’s hind legs are webbed and help them swim. The paddle shaped tail is used as rudders for steering.
  • They can swim up to speeds of 5 miles an hour!
  • A beaver can transport his own weight in material, and will drag the logs along mudslides and float them through canals to get them in place.
  • After being hunted extensively for a couple of centuried the beaver is making a strong comeback in much of Canada.
  • Beavers are second only to humans in their ability to  manipulate and change their environment.

In April of 2008 an Ottawa scientist Jean Thie discovered what he believes is the largest Beaver dam ever while scouring for signs of climate change via satellite imagery. The 850 meter or 2790 feet long dam is located just south of Lac Clair in the Wood Buffalo national Park, Alberta, Canada. It is twice the size of what was the world’s largest, the Hoover dam in the U.S. which spans 1,244 feet! Jean Thie also saw two smaller dams being built on either side of the big dam, he believes in time these will be a single structure spanning almost a kilometer!

Details about a beaver Dam :

A common myth is that beavers use their tail to carry and pack mud for dam building, in reality beavers carry mud by holding it against their chest. Spillways and passageways are built into the dam to allow excess water to drain off without damaging it. Dams are generally built wider at the base, and the top is usually tilted upstream to resist the force of the current. Trees approaching the diameter of 3 ft. (.9 m) may be used, but the average size used to construct a dam is 4 to 12 in. (10 to 30 cm). The length will depend upon the diameter of the tree and the size of the beaver. There are recorded cases of beavers felling logs of as much as 150 ft. (45 m) tall and 5 ft. (115 cm) in diameter. Logs of this size are not intended to be used as structural members, but rather the bark is used for food, and sometimes to get at upper branches.

Probably it is all this that makes them interesting to us.. they are after all nature’s engineers!

For more information about Beavers you could check these links
beavers world wide  U of Michigan Diversity

Polar Bears Cute Cuddly Strong and Threatened

Polar Bear
Image by Spisharam

Starting our journey to know more about our fellow earthlings with the Polar bear Ursus maritimus since it has become the poster child for climate change. Volunteering at the Columbus Zoo has helped me learn a lot more about animals than I did when I graduated with a degree in zoology (mostly me paying more attention to the animal rather than the science I should say). This month the zoo opened its Polar frontier to the public and it has been an instant hit with one and all!

It is during the introduction to the Polar frontier and preparing to talk about them and answer questions that I realized how much things have changed for them and how much things are still changing.

At first look they look white and cuddly (like all the teddy bears in the world!). Ursus maritimus Polar Bears are the world’s largest land predators. They evolved from the brown bears 200,000 years ago. They have adaptations to live in the cold arctic climate they call home. Polar bears live in the circumpolar north (meaning inside the Arctic Circle on northern most parts of our earth) and hunt for seals their main food source through cracks in ice called “leads”. Approximate Polar bear population in the wild is believed to be between 20,000 and 25,000 as of 2008. Polar bears live up to 25 years in the wild and 40 years at zoos. Polar bears have huge paws with sickle shaped claws which help them walk on ice without slipping. Size wise the males are larger standing between 8-10 feet as adults and weighing between 550-1,700 pounds (approximately 250-770 K g) females stand between 6-8 feet full grown and weigh between 200-700 pounds (90-320 K g). Polar bears have solid insulation for surviving the Arctic climate (temperatures dip to -50°F / -45°C). They have 2 layers of fur and a layer of blubber which can be 4.5 inches thick!

The female bears after mating and feeding heavily in April and May dig a den along mountain slopes or snowdrifts (moving snow accumulating along slopes, kind of like sand dunes in the deserts) in October or early November.  The Mother bears give birth to mostly twin cubs during November or December.  The cubs are 12-14 inches when born and weigh around a pound. They grow feeding on their mother’s rich milk. The Mother bear and cubs do not emerge from the den until March April, and the mother bear does not eat, drink or defecate during this whole time! Once out of the den in March – April she heads out looking for a seal to hunt and eat and thus starts the cubs first lesson in real life survival. She teaches them to hunt by targeting seal pups which are still in their den. The cubs stay with the mom for up to 2 years.

Fun Facts:

  • Five nations are home to polar bears in the wild: Canada (where almost 60% of them live), U.S. (Alaska), Russia, Denmark (Greenland), and Norway.
  • Polar Bear cubs below the age of 1 are called coys.
  • They are the largest land predators and the only predator they have is the Human!
  • The largest Polar bear on record was a 2,209 pound male!
  • They are so powerful they can capture and drag a seal weighing between 150-200 pounds from water on to the ice!
  • They pretty much eat anything they want (real Omnivores), but Ringed Seals are their favorite food.
  • Polar bears only eat the blubber in the seals they kill and leave the rest behind for other carnivores to feed on, like the Arctic foxes.
  • They are the top most predator in the Arctic food chain, and keep the seal population under control.
  • They have one of the slowest birth-rates amongst mammals, having only 5 litters in their lifetime.
  • Most Polar bears spend most of their life on the ice and exception is the Western Hudson Bay population which spends most of its time on land while not hunting to stay cool and conserve energy.


Polar bears depend on ice for livelihood – they breed, hunt and even build their maternity dens on ice! Increasing global temperature has lead to the ice melting faster than normal. Their time has been reduced by around 3 weeks than what they had 20 years ago. If the climate change is not brought under control scientists believe two thirds of the population could disappear by 2030 i.e. in 20 years!

Rapid loss of sea ice is the major threat to the Polar Bear. Watch the Receding ice video courtesy Polar Bear International

Their population is also impacted by poaching, pollution and industrial impact. If not properly regulated hunting could also join the list.

Climate change affects not just us but the effect is wide spread, it is time we take a stand. Every small step counts. Live Green, Leave the Earth better for the future.

Polar Bear at the Columbus Zoo

For more information Polar Bears International Website