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What forest do they live in?
Bengal tigers live in tropical rainforests in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal. However, most of the population is found in grassland or deciduous forests.
Bengal tigers like the constant shade that the forest floor guarantees with the understory’s leaves leaving the tigers cool. The tropical rainforest temperature never falls below 18 degrees celsius and can reach up to 33 degrees celsius and over. The tropical rainforests have no winter or summer seasons, with only 2 degrees separating them. Also with up to 10160 mm rain annually, with an average of 4064 mm, it ensures that the Bengal tiger (after the rains have dripped all the way down to the forest floor) is never thirsty.
A typical tropical rainforest is green and lush, with some trees reaching over 45 metres. It contains an amazing array of insects, birds, mammals and plants. The Bengal tiger is certainly not alone in these every green and every rainy forest habitat.
One of the many adaptations of the Bengal tigers is camouflage. The shade of the understory and the flickering of passing trees match their dark colours and their stripes give the idea of fleeting trees. However the insides of a Bengal tigers ears are a creamy white so that the mothers do not completely disappear from the view of their bleary-eyed children.
Bengal tigers live on the forest floor and prey on monkeys, hares and boars and are even known to eat porcupines. Bengal tigers prefer to prey on animals smaller than themselves. Bengal tigers usually hunt old, young or injured animals. Even so, they can make up to ten attempts before being rewarded with a kill. If a Bengal tiger gets hungry enough, they are known to hunt animals as big as oxen. Sometimes a Bengal tiger will eat 18kg of meat in one sitting, then not eat for days.
Body (claws, teeth etc.)
These beautiful beasts are perfectly adapted to their forest habitat. The Bengal tigers have soft pads that allow them to sneak up on prey as silently as the night, with retractable claws that help them to firstly kill the animal and later tear the huge chunk of meat into manageable portions. Tigers also use their sharp, deadly claws to scratch the trees to sharpen their claws and make sure they do not grow too long. They also scratch the trees to mark their territory as well as their urine. A male tiger has a much larger territory than a female’s. In fact, many male territories include a female territory inside its boundaries.
Bengal tigers have also inherited a few useful traits from their ancestors, the sabre toothed tiger. One of these traits is nocturnal vision that allows the Bengal tiger to hunt their prey relentlessly night or day. Actually, a Bengal tiger’s vision can function with up to one-sixth the light that a human eye needs. Another inherited trait is their huge canine teeth. Although they aren’t quite as big as their ancestors, this species of tigers, like many others, relies upon these teeth to hunt, kill and eat their prey. They cannot afford to lose these teeth in old age or injury. Such a development would be fatal in many ways including the fact that they wouldn’t be able to kill or eat their food, leading to a slow death of starvation.
What’s Causing their Decline?
There are so many things working against the Bengal Tiger, including deforestation and poaching, not only for their skins but also for their magical properties in Chinese medicine. Even the statistics are working against the Bengal tiger, saying that it will become extinct in the next ten years. Also, the tiger doesn’t have a very good track record; three of the eight species of tiger have become extinct in the last one hundred years and the other five are all endangered… or worse. There are less than 50 South China tigers alive, though some people are of the opinion that they’re already extinct as it’s been twenty years since the last sighting.
Deforestation of the Bengal tigers’ habitat is playing a major part in the Bengal tigers’ reduction. Where once they had thousands of acres to roam, they now have only a few scarce sanctuaries (refer to map on page 2) and even there they are not completely safe from poachers. Farmers and towns, cities and businesses have taken up their beautiful utopia. In fact, tigers now have only 7 per cent of area that they once had before.
One of the reasons why deforestation of their habitat is so bad is because it means that when a male cub grows up it’s harder to establish a territory that doesn’t clash with another male tiger, leading to brutal fights as the tiger’s territorial side takes over. Another reason is that Bengal tigers are creeping out of the national parks in the middle of the night and killing stock and cattle. Farmers, getting unjust compensation, are leaving out poisoned meat, which the tigers eat.
Poaching for Chinese medicine is also playing a key role in the Bengal tigers’ extinction. The Chinese believe that if you eat a part of a powerful animal then that power is therefore transferred on to you. A few of the tiger Chinese properties include:
‘Tiger claws: used as a sedative for insomnia
Teeth: used to treat fever
Fat: used to treat leprosy and rheumatism
Nose leather: used to treat superficial wounds, such as bites
Tiger bone: used as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat rheumatism and arthritis, general weakness, headaches, stiffness or paralysis in lower back and legs and dysentery
Eyeballs: used to treat epilepsy and malaria
Tail: used to treat skin diseases
Bile: used to treat convulsions in children associated with meningitis
Whiskers: used to treat toothaches
Brain: used to treat laziness and pimples
Penis: used in love potions, such as tiger soup, as an aphrodisiac
Feces (dung): used to treat boils, hemorrhoids and cure alcoholism’*
Poaching for trophies and the skin of tigers is also a large part of the Bengal tigers demise. Also poor farmers can be bribed to go into the national parks next door to them. A farmer can earn more in just one night of poaching than five years of farming. In fact one tiger pelt can fetch up to ten thousand dollars on the black market.
How Can You Help
Many charities exist bent on bringing tigers, including the Bengal tiger, back from the verge of extinction, including, Tiger Awareness, World Wildlife Fund Tx2 (“WWF Tx2”) and Save The Tiger Fund (“STF”).
Tiger Awareness is a charity in the United Kingdom (“UK”). It helps to fund the arming of forest guards and provide fair compensation to farmers where tigers have eaten their stock. Donate now at:
WWF Tx2 is a charity run by the World Wildlife Fund. It proposes to double the number of tigers by the year 2022. This is the year of the tiger in the Chinese calendar. Donate now or adopt a tiger of your very own at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/tigers/index.html
The STF funds tiger national parks throughout India. Donate to their cause now at:
Also you can spread the word of the plight and make sure that every is well educated about how serious their situation is. As well as that try to avoid eating tiger products or products that are farmed from cleared tiger forests. If you use traditional Chinese medicine, remember there are always alternatives to medicines that use tiger parts.