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Largest among the cat family, the Indian or Bengal Tiger, belongs to the Family Felidae and the Genus Panthera (Panthera tigris tigris ).The earliest fossil found about two million years ago was that of a smaller tiger like cat. Of the nine subspecies of the tiger, three are now extinct. The Indian Tiger struggles to survive in Bangladesh,Nepal,Bhutan, Myanmar and in India.
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The Indian Tiger has an orange coat with numerous black stripes; its fur is shorter than that of the Siberian Tiger. It is a carnivorous mammal and its diet includes deer, pigs, rabbits, goats and fish. The adult tiger (males are heavier) weighs over 2oo kgs and is around 9 feet long. It eats 35 to 40 kgs of meat in one meal.The vocal chords are so structured that it can roar.
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The Indian Tiger is listed as endangered. Its rapidly decreasing population raised worldwide alarm and the Project Tiger was launched by the Indian Government in 1973. Tiger hunting was banned and several reserved areas were demarcated all over India. The WWF and the World Bank helped fund conservation efforts. The tiger is also listed on the CITES Appendix A listing,and the ICUN Red Book; it is also on the endangerd list of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However , inspite of all these measures, the current population of the Indian Tiger in India is estimated to be only around 1400; and the Sariska and Panna reserves have no tigers left, apart from the 3 recently air dropped into Sariska.
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Behaviour, Habitat, And Threats
The behaviour, habitat and threats to the Indian Tiger are all interdependent. Unlike the lion, these are not pack animals. Young tigers, particularly males stake out their territory early; for many tigers to survive within a reserve large areas of forest land is needed. The habitatl can vary from the mangroves of the Sunderbans,to the less green areas of the Western Ghats and the jungles of the south. Females bear and care for the young alone, feeding them even after they are weaned, and protecting them from others. The gestation period is around 100 days and the litter of 2 to 4 cubs stays close to the mother for 2 to 3 years, learning hunting skills from her. Tigers rely on their good hearing and forest cover to stalk their prey rather then on speed or stamina. They also need sufficient prey to feed on and water bodies in their territory. Tigers are good swimmers and love being in the water.The burgeoning human population in India and their spillover into buffer zones, lead to conflicts with tigers. Tigers which venture out into human settlements may feed on livestock, and may be poisoned by the local population. Habitat loss due to developmant projects and mining have alarmed conservaionists. The fall in tiger numbers in turn leads to inbreeding and genetic defects.
Poaching is an increasingly grave threat.Tiger parts like skin, and penises are sold for tens of thousands of dollars, though this trade is banned. Bones are used in traditional Chinese medicines.
Natural disasters, like the recent Cyclone Aila have killed several tigers in the ravaged low lying areas of the sunderbans.
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Instead of the traditinal methods of counting pugmarks, now DNA analysis and Camera trapping methods are being used for a census of the remaining tiger population of this beautiful endangered animal,