Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Save our tigers

Tiger- perhaps the most majestic animal on the face of the planet, India's national animal is in danger.
Though India is home to the world's largest population of tigers in the wild and according to the World Wildlife Fund, of the 3,500 tigers around the world, 1,400 are found in India but it has come down from 40,000 at the start of the century. This is why it is alarming. World Wildlife Fund for Nature has released its list of the world's 10 most in demand species being bought, sold, smuggled, killed or captured for trade purposes and tiger heads this list. In India right from earlier time, the tiger has been one of the Big Five game animals of Asia. Tiger hunting took place on a large scale in the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries, being a recognised and admired sport by the British in colonial India as well as the maharajas and aristocratic class of the erstwhile princely states of pre-independence India!

Some interesting facts about the tiger below.......
....There has been an attempt in India specially in media by the campaign launched by Aircel Save Our Tigers, involving many celebrities- Kiran Bedi, Suresh Raina, Baichung Bhutia, Suriya and M S Dhoni (specially who is a complete natural even in acting!) to bring about the necessary awareness among the people. But it would really be a shame if this majestic animal disappears and right now the situation is critical. With its area decreasing all the time,occupied or captured by humans, it is often forced to kill and eat the cattle and even the people which subsequently leads to its killing by people.

If you ask me my favourite animal, it has always been the tiger. There is something about the cat family (felines) that I really love. Although they are ruthless carnivores, there is a certain majesty about them. And even though a lion is the King of the jungle, I would prefer to watch a tiger any day.

Here are a few things about a tiger worth knowing, which make a tiger the grandeur that it is -

- Reaching up to 3.3 metres (11 ft) in total length and weighing up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds), the larger tiger subspecies are comparable in size to the biggest extinct felids

- Aside from their great bulk and power, they are highly adaptable, territorial and generally solitary animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey demands.

- Of the nine subspecies of modern tiger, three are extinct and the remaining six are classified as endangered, some critically so.

- The word "tiger" is taken from the Greek word "tigris", which is possibly derived from a Persian source meaning "arrow", a reference to the animal's speed and also the origin for the name of the Tigris river

- Among the big cats, only the tiger and jaguar are strong swimmers; tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Unlike other cats, which tend to avoid water, tigers actively seek it out. During the extreme heat of the day, they often cool off in pools. Tigers are excellent swimmers and can swim up to 4 miles. This cat will also carry their dead prey across lakes.

- Tigers have the additional distinction of being the heaviest cats found in the wild. They also have powerfully built legs and shoulders, with the result that they, like lions, have the ability to pull down prey substantially heavier than themselves.

- In contrast to male lions, male tigers will allow the females and cubs to feed on the kill first. Furthermore, tigers seem to behave relatively amicably when sharing kills, in contrast to lions, which tend to squabble and fight. Unrelated tigers have also been observed feeding on prey together.

- In the wild, tigers mostly feed on larger and medium sized animals. Sambar, gaur, chital, barasingha, wild boar, nilgai and both water buffalo and domestic buffalo are the tiger's favoured prey in India. Sometimes, they also prey on leopards, pythons, sloth bears and crocodiles. A case where a tiger killed an adult Indian Rhinoceros has been observed. Young elephant and rhino calves are occasionally taken.

- Tigers usually hunt at night. They generally hunt alone and ambush their prey as most other cats do, overpowering them from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock large prey off balance. Even with their great masses, tigers can reach speeds of about 49-65 kilometres per hour (35-40 miles per hour), although they can only do so in short bursts, since they have relatively little stamina; consequently, tigers must be relatively close to their prey before they break their cover. Tigers have great leaping ability; horizontal leaps of up to 10 metres have been reported, although leaps of around half this amount are more typical. However, only one in twenty hunts ends in a successful kill.

- When hunting large prey, tigers prefer to bite the throat and use their forelimbs to hold onto the prey, bringing it to the ground. The tiger remains latched onto the neck until its prey dies of strangulation. By this method, gaurs and water buffalos weighing over a ton have been killed by tigers weighing about a sixth as much. With small prey, the tiger bites the nape, often breaking the spinal cord, piercing the windpipe, or severing the jugular vein or common carotid artery. Though rarely observed, some tigers have been recorded to kill prey by swiping with their paws, which are powerful enough to smash the skulls of domestic cattle, and break the backs of sloth bears.

- Poaching for fur and destruction of habitat have greatly reduced tiger populations in the wild. At the start of the 20th century, it is estimated there were over 100,000 tigers in the world but the population has dwindled to about 2,000 in the wild

World's favourite animal

In a poll conducted by Animal Planet, the tiger was voted the world's favourite animal, narrowly beating the dog. More than 50,000 viewers from 73 countries voted in the poll. Tigers received 21% of the vote, dogs 20%, dolphins 13%, horses 10%, lions 9%, snakes 8%, followed by elephants, chimpanzees, orangutans and whales.
Animal behaviourist Candy d'Sa, who worked with Animal Planet on the list, said: "We can relate to the tiger, as it is fierce and commanding on the outside, but noble and discerning on the inside".
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