Head On!! By crodge
I have visited Nagarhole National Park, BR Hills and Wyanad Wildlife Sanctury.  I have gone on more than 8 safaris in these jungles, duration of 2 hrs each inside the Tiger heartland.  Have still not seen a single  tiger, not even a pug mark or its poop.  It is said that only the lucky ones happen to spot them.  It is easier to spot the leapords, but not the tiger.

Having read a bit about the elusive and shy animal, my respect for this creature has grown manifold, and I thought I put this piece together, so that tiger lovers can read it.  The others might develop some interest too.  And frankly, the tiger needs more lovers than poachers.

Tigers (and all other carnivores) have descended from civet-like animals called miacids that lived during the age of the dinosaurs about 60 million years ago. These small mammals, with long bodies and short flexible limbs, evolved over millions of years into several hundred different species, including cats, bears, dogs and weasels. Approximately 37 cat species exist today, including Panthera tigris, the tiger.

Tigers evolved in eastern Asia. Andrew Kitchener states in the book The Natural History of Wild Cats, that

"Fossil tigers are known from the Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene of southeastern Asia. A small primitive tiger was living in North China during the Early Pleistocene. Between 1.3 and 2.1 million years ago, tigers were living in Java...from about two million years ago, tigers spread from their evolutionary centre in eastern Asia in two directions. Tigers moving through the Central Asian woodlands to the west and southwest gave rise to the Caspian tigers. Secondly, tigers from China moved to the east of the central Asian mountains to southeastern Asian and the Indonesian islands, and thence westwards to India (Hemmer, 1987)."

In spite of the misleading name, saber-toothed tigers are not the ancestors of today’s tigers. In fact, saber-toothed tigers belonged to a separate branch of the cat family that became extinct many millions of years ago.

100 years ago there were 8 different kinds of tigers (subspecies) - there were over 100,000 wild tigers in the world. Today, there are only 5 tiger subspecies left and there are fewer than 7,000 wild tigers in the world. The main threats to tigers are poaching, loss of habitat, and population fragmentation.

Today only about 5000 - 7000 wild tigers live across Asia.

Amur or Siberian Tiger ( Panthera tigris altaica ) Estimated population : 360 – 406 in wild, 490 captive Habitat : Coniferous, scrub oak and birchwoodlands of eastern Russis. Some in North Eastern China and North Eastern Korea Size : They are the largest.  Male : 3.3 m & 300 kgs, Female : 2.6 m & 167 kgs Coloration : Orange coloring is paler, stipes are brown rather than black, white chest and belly with thick white ruff or fur around the nect.

Bengal Tiger ( Panthera tigris tigris ) The estimated wild population of Bengal tigers is approximately 3,159–4,715  tigers, with about 333 in captivity, primarily in zoos in India. Estimated population : 3159 – 4715 in wild, 333 captive Habitat : High altitude, cold, Himalayan coniferous forest, lush forests of Northern India, arid forests of Rajasthan, steaming mangroves of Sundarbans, swamp reedlands, scorched hills of Indian Peninsula, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.  Tigers are found in the Himalayan valleys, and tracks have been recorded in winter slow at 3000 mts. Size : Male : 2.9 m & 220 kgs, Females : 2.5 m & 140 kgs

White Tigers : All wild white tigers were a color variation of Bengal tigers. Wild white tigers were very rare, and none have been reported in the wild since the 1950s.

White tigers in zoos are inbred and crossbred mixtures of Bengal and Siberian. They are neither albinos (in which case they would have pink eyes), nor a separate species; they have chocolate stripes and blue eyes, although several variations in eye and stripe color are seen. White tigers are only born to parents  that both carry the recessive gene for white coloring.

The first white cub precursor to all the captive white tigers is believed to be one trapped by the Maharaja of Rewa, who found it orphaned in the jungle in 1951. Named Mohan, the cub was later mated to a normal-colored captive tigress who produced three litters with normal coloring. A few years later, Mohan mated with one of the offspring, producing the first litter of white cubs in captivity—these were to be the ancestors of others now in many zoos the world over. The white tigers are therefore called the Rewa tigers.

As of June 1998, there were 30 white tigers in U.S. zoos that participate in SSP (species survival plan) programs.  No one knows how many more are in private hands.

Indochinese Tiger ( Panthera tigris corbetti ) Estimated Count : 1227 – 1785 in wild, 60 in zoos Habitat : Thailand, Myanmar, South China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia. Size : They are smaller. Males – 2.7 m & 180 kgs, Females : 2.4 m & 115 kgs Colouration : They are darker than Bengal tigers

South China Tiger  ( Panthera tigris amoyensis ) Estimated population : 20 – 30 in wild, 47 captive.  Therefore these are most critically endangered Habitat : Central and Eastern China Size : Smallest tiger sub-species.  Male : 2.5 m & 150 kgs, Females : 2.3 m & 110 kgs Colouration : Short, broad stripes that are spaced far apart.

Sumatran Tiger ( Panthera tigris sumatrae ) About 400 wild Sumatran tigers are believed to exist, primarily in the island’s five national parks. 210 captive animals live in zoos around the world. Estimated population : 400 in wild, 210 captive Habitat : Indonesian island of Sumatra.  Lowland forest to sub mountain forest with peat-moss Size :  These are the smallest ones, Male : 2.4 m & 120 kgs, Female : 2.2 m & 90 kgs Colouration : They have the darkest coat of all tigers.  Its broad, black stripes are closely spaced and often doubled.  They have striped forelegs as well, unlike the rest.

The Extinct Subspecies Three tiger subspecies are considered to have become extinct in the past 70 years, the Caspian tiger, the Javan tiger and the Bali tiger.

The Caspian tiger, Panthera tigris virgata, once ranged in Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, and the Central Asiatic area of Russia and probably went extinct in the 1950s.

The Javan tiger, Panthera tigris sondaica, formerly ranged on the Indonesian island of Java and was last seen in 1972.

The Bali tiger, Panthera tigris balica, once lived on Bali, where the last tiger was believed to have been killed in 1937. As far as we know, no photos of a live Bali tiger exist. One photo of a dead Bali tiger was taken in 1925.

Now, why are tigers in danger ?

The reasons are many.

They look beautiful, and hence foreigners like to buy their skin.  The program on Natgeo – Wild Detectives indicated that a poacher sells a tiger skin for about INR 75,000 to a tout or middle man, who will inturn sell it off for INR 300000 in the international market.  A leapard skin or a panthers skin is valued at INR 75000 in the international market.

Tiger, Panther and Leapords skins are a part of the Tibetans traditional dress.  Many tourists who visit Tibet and willing to pay a higher price for a coat that has the real animal fur on it.

Tiger parts are a ingredient of Chinese medicines that are gaining popularity all over the world.  They are considered to be amphrodisiacs.  So, a number of tigers are trapped and killed every year to cater to these needs.

So, what can we do to save the tiger ?  

Two things.  Stop buying animal products, ie medicines with animal parts, ivory and stuff.  Know more about the tiger. So, if you will stop buying, the killing can too.  Oh, I flicked this line from a WWF campaign.

You can join a forest conservation program, so that that habitat of the tiger is protected.

I would like to write more about the nature of this elusive animal, but, then, it would become a very lengthy piece to read.  So, I shall write more in a different article – part 2.  Alright.

If any of you wants to come face to face with a tiger, you can get to any of these places.  They are affordable, far away in the wilderness, and you are going to love the experience, and will resolve that you will go back again.  Given below are a good mix of Tiger Reserves in India.

Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka Kabini River Lodge & BR Hills ( A Jungle Lodges Property ), Email : Reservation@junglelodges.con, info@junglelodges.com, Ph : 91-80 – 25597201 / 91 – 80 – 25597025 / 91 – 80 - 25597025

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary [URL=http://www.indiamike.com/india/article.php?a=12][COLOR=Navy]Chilligere Estate [/COLOR] [/URL] ( South Coorg ) South Coorg,  is about 10 kms from Nagarhole NP and about 8 kms from  Wyanad Wildlife sanctuary. P.O. Box – 167,  Manchally Village & Post, Kutta, S. Kodagu. Pin – 571 250. Ph : 08274 – 244265. Mobile : 94485 82596., Contact : Mr. T. T. Somaiah / Mrs. Banu.

Corbett National Park – ( Kumaon District,UP. Reachable from Lucknow ) Corbett Hideway, Tel :+(91)-(11)-26413304/26293905/26293906,  Fax : +(91)-(11)-26413303 E-mail : info@corbetthideaway.com Camp Forktail Creek, Phone : 91- 5947- 287804, Email : info@campforktailcreek.com

Ranthambore National Park ( Rajasthan , Nearest Town Sawai Madhopur ) Sherbagh Hotel, Tiger Den Hotel, Tiger Moon Hotel – Contact : info@ranthamborenationalpark.com, Ph : 91-11-22717787,55268363

Bandavgarh National Park ( Tala District, Umaria, Bandavgarh, MP - 484661) Tiger Forest Lodge : 91-(07653) 65308. Bandavgarh Safari Camp : 91-(07653) 65322 Bandavgarh Nature Heritage Resort : 0240 – 22381 160 Bandavgarh Jungle Lodge : 91-65317

Kanha National Park – ( Morcha Village , P.O. Kisli - Kanha National Park , District Mandla ,Madhya Pradesh 481768 . India ) Kipling Camp , Ph : + 91-33-2473 3306 , Cable: Tollygunge Club, Calcutta-33 Email: info@kiplingcamp.com

Sundarbans ( Goshaba, Basunti, Sonakhali or Port Canning – about 50 kms from Kolkata ) Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge : Tel: 03463-52699 Fax: 03463-52398