Did you know that tigers have retractable claws? Or that they could weigh up to 306 kilos? Well, read on to know more …

As friends, we need to get to know each other. So for some tiger talk. Currently there are around 3500 tigers left in the world. And more than half of them live in the forests of India.

There are five existing sub- species of tigers; the Bengal tiger, the Indo- Chinese tiger, the Siberian, the Sumatran and the South-Chinese. Three other species, the Bali tiger, the Caspian tiger and the Java Tiger have all long since disappeared from the face of the earth. As for moi, I belong to the Royal Bengal Tiger species, my generic name being Panthera tigris .

Tigers belong to the cat family. We are strong and powerful weighing anywhere between 65 and 306 kg and measuring about 6.2 to 10.8 feet from nose to tail tip.

Our colour varies from orange to brownish yellow. Our chests are white and our bellies are covered with black or dark brown stripes. Each tiger is uniquely striped, and has over 100 stripes.The bands of colour would repeat in exact pattern if the fur was lost and then grew back. Tigers, like cats, have retractable claws. Our deadly canine teeth can cut and slice flesh like scissors. We are creatures of the night, hunting in darkness.

Unlike other cats who shy away from water, we love to swim. Since we like to live alone in a marked territory, we use our strong sense of smell to keep track of each other’s movements.

Growing up

Tiger cubs are born blind , their eyes open only after one or two weeks. Initially they are blue-green in colour and later change to a glowing amber. Usually there are three cubs in a litter, weighing around 1.5 kilos. Our life span is around 15 years in the wild, poachers and other hazards permitting.

Tigers can live in almost any climate. An ideal tiger territory would mean dense forest cover — grass lands or swamps, plenty of potential prey, pools or lakes for cooling off, and no prying humans!

Menu matters

Now tigers eat anything and nothing can eat them! In India, the sambar deer, the chital, the nilghai and other deer are on the main menu besides gaur and wild boar. A peacock, fish, or a monkey may serve as a light snack. Porcupines can prove to be a dangerous meal if their quills get embedded in the tiger’s body. As a species, tigers are very important in the scheme of Mother Nature. Sitting on top of the food chain, we keep a check of wild herbivore population maintaining a balance between the grass eaters and the vegetation. Otherwise those guys would end up eating all our green cover. Remember Simba’s Circle of life ?

Would love to hear from you. Mail me at sherook@wildmail.com

A Children for Animals and Nature Unlimited (CANU ) Initiative

Keywords: tiger