India’s Bengal tiger is one of 6 subspecies of tigers (Panthera tigris), and the most numerous. They represent half of the less than 4,000 tigers that remain in the wild. The other subspecies of tigers are the Amur (or Siberian), South China, Sumatran, Indochinese, and Malayan tigers. There were once three additional subspecies that became extinct in the 20th century.
Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful nocturnal hunters that travel many miles to find buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and other large mammals. Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes). They lie in wait and creep close enough to attack their victims with a quick spring and a fatal pounce. A hungry tiger can eat as much as 60 pounds in one night, though they usually eat less.
Despite their fearsome reputation, most tigers avoid humans; however, a few do become dangerous man-eaters. These animals are often sick and unable to hunt normally, or live in an area where their traditional prey has vanished.
Females give birth to litters of two to six cubs, which they raise with little or no help from the male. Cubs cannot hunt until they are 18 months old and remain with their mothers for two to three years, when they disperse to find their own territory.
A tiger’s roar can be heard as far as two miles away.
National Geographic Photography
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