Today the 27th of September 2010 is International Tiger Day, it has been set aside by all those who care about the Big Cats to highlight the state of the Tiger in the Wild. It was in Russia that International Tiger Day was started nine years ago by The Phoenix Fund, a non-governmental organization founded by Russian and U.S. conservationists.
Panthera is an organization which focuses entirely on conservation and education efforts to protect the big cats has been actively speaking out for the tigers. Panthera’s president is Mr.Alan Rabinowitz a leading cat expert who has traveled the world on behalf of wildlife conservation and over the years has studied jaguars, clouded leopards, Asiatic leopards, tigers, Sumatran rhinos, bears, leopard cats, raccoons, and civets. He has also authored many articles and books on the subject.
Panthera’s Tiger Program director is Dr.Joe Smith who is working on Panthera’s “Tigers Forever” Program. If you have been following us, you might remember reading in our last part of the Disappearing Stripes series about the new study which suggested focusing on the key sites across Asia which were more viable to the Tiger’s survival. Panthera’s Tigers Forever program is working with the Wild life conservation Society that aims to increase tiger populations in key sites by at least 50% over the next years.There is a detailed interview with Dr.Joe in the National Geographic, you can read it here.
Tigers Forever is mitigating direct killing of tigers and their prey by:
Enhancing law enforcement patrols through rigorous training to protect tigers, their prey and habitat in and around core areas,
Using informant networks to investigate and apprehend poachers and others conducting illegal activities, and
Training of government and other NGO staff to carry out the best scientific methods on the ground.
The largest cats in the world! What could be threatening them?
Wild tigers are directly hunted both to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market, and due to human-tiger conflict, where local people take retaliatory measures to protect themselves and their livestock.
Tiger habitat is either being destroyed due to conversion for agricultural purposes and human development, or fragmented, leaving only isolated ‘postage-stamp’ size areas that are not sufficient for the long term survival of wild tigers.
Tiger prey, like deer and wild pigs, have been overhunted by people either for subsistence or for sale on the black market. Lack of wild prey increases the chance of tigers feeding off of livestock, which in turn fuels human-tiger conflict.
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.
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!
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…
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. The Manifesto on Combating Wildlife Crime in Asia, adopted in Pattaya, Thailand, in April 2009.
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!
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO SIGN THE PETITION on the right side- JUSTICE FOR JHURJHURRA TIGRESS SO THAT SHE & HER CUB WOULD NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN…
List of Organizations which are working hard to make sure the Tiger Survives:
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.
Characteristics, Habitatand 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.
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…