Research

Why study tigers in the Sundarbans? Why not put all our resources and efforts into protection? Surely we know enough about tigers by now to know how to help save them! Why are you trying to catch and collar tigers? Isn’t that a dangerous undertaking that endangers a tigers life?

These are important questions that deserve careful thought and response. Imagine if you are trying to manage an animal and its environment but you don’t know:

  •  how many animals you have
  •  what resources they need to survive
  •  how their habitat is changing, or
  •  what threats they are facing

The tigers of Bangladesh present such a conundrum. Studies from other countries such as Nepal, Russia, and India has told us a lot about some general life history characteristics and behavior that can probably be applied to all tigers, but we simply don’t know the first thing about the current Sundarbans tiger population or how current management strategies are affecting it.

There have been several valiant attempts to gain understanding of how tigers living in the Sundarbans survive, but the thick vegetation, large tidal fluctuations and a maze of waterways has hampered these efforts. The only way to really get to know how tigers exist in a particular habitat type is to follow those tigers using telemetry. This will give information on how much area they need, and what particular parts of the forest are essential for its well being. A female’s territory, for example, is directly related to the quality of the habitat, measured in abundance of prey. A female tiger needs to defend enough food for both itself and its young to live off. Defending to much will decrease its chances of survival (through increased competition from other tigers), as will defending too little (through starvation). Getting information on the home range size of female tigers in a particular setting will give a good estimate of the breeding population size. This can be used to calculate how the population will change to various pressures and will allow formulation of monitoring schemes that can quantify the effectiveness of management activities. Knowing about the population in isolation is not enough. We also need to know how the tigers use its environment, i.e. are their factors essential for their survival that also need to be managed and protected. Relating locational data from the radio/GPS collars will identify which factors are important. In addition, following tigers on a daily basis will give a huge amount of behavioral information that will help understand such issues as man-eating.

Not less importantly, a research program also helps tiger conservation indirectly by two different means. Firstly, a field level team provides ground level “eyes” in the forest that provide feedback to administrative policy makers, and act as a deterrent to human activities that would otherwise threaten the tigers or their habitat. Secondly, the information gained can be used to dramatically increase support for conservation by if it is made available to all levels of society, from government bodies and local communities to schools, universities and the general public.

There is certainly a small but very real risk to individual tigers that are captured for study. However, there is an even greater risk to the tiger population as a whole by sitting back and doing nothing. Look at other tiger countries and see where the most effective conservation has been carried out. You will soon find a clear pattern of well managed tiger populations connected to long-term scientific research programs.

Examples of tiger related research projects

 

 

ECOLOGICAL NEEDS OF TIGER Home range

Tiger abundance

Habitat selection

Prey selection

Movement patters

Response to human presence

6 Females need to be collared

Tigers followed on daily basis to
identify prey types and kill frequency

LIFE HISTORY CHARACTERISTICS
& BEHAVIOR
Survival

Mortality

Recruitment

Social organization

Males & Females collared &
followed throughout their life
MAN-EATING Occurrence

Distribution

Behavior

Ecological factors

Record ecological conditions that pre-dispose a tiger to become a man-eater

Collar tigers in areas that consistently produce man-eaters

Collar problem tigers

HABITAT ASSESSMENT Prey abundance

Vegetation cover

Salinity

Human use

Remote sensing and ground surveys to record and monitor ecological variables that effect tiger abundance and distribution

 

Update on findings from research conducted

The findings of the FD tiger abundance survey completed in 2007 have now been published in the journal of Biological Conservation. Now that we have a strong monitoring program we will be able to track changes in the tiger population over time so that we can measure if our conservation efforts are having an effect; if we are doing a good job then tiger numbers will remain stable or increase, if we are not being effective then the population will decline and the survey will help us identify problem areas where we need to put in more effort. The survey is planned to take place every two years. The abstract of the paper can be found at:-

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V5X-4SY5X1C-1&_ user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view;=c&_version=1&_urlVersion =0&_userid=10&md5;=ad547d6cf4b8d0a2cf34c81c209ed2ab

The findings from other research undertaken including home range, man-eating, prey abundance, and palaeontology are currently being analysed and written up. These will be made available as soon as this is complete.

Other workstreams required for a successful conservation program

The project was initially research focused – there was very little information on the tigers of the Bangladeshi Sundarbans and it is hard to gain the political and funding support for a full scale tiger conservation without such information. Now from the research base, the project is evolving rapidly to also encompass capacity building and conservation awareness activities. This will help ensure that the issues illuminated by research are mitigated via conservation action on the ground.

 

Capacity building Improve basic ecological understanding, data collection skills and general motivation of Forest Department staff working in the Sundarbans; this is being done through field training, workshops, presentations and the development of a field handbook and a short documentary film.
Enable the forest department to carry out scientific research and monitoring of tigers; this is being enables through the experience gained through the day to day activities of the research team
Enable the Forest Department to deal with problem tigers; this is being don through the creation of a problem tiger response team and a communications network throughout the human settlements bordering the Sundarbans.

 

Increasing conservation awareness GENERAL PUBLIC: through this web site, newspape articles, TV reports, books, films
TOURISTS: through presentations, literature and hopefully in the future a visitors center
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES: through field trips, work opportunities, presentations and the production of educational materials
LOCAL COMMUNITIES: through presentations and free educational material
THE 퍼스트 출장안마 출장마사지 후불업체

Has the Tiger a Future in India?

by Peter Jackson

India is suffering its third tiger crisis. Once again there is fear that the largest surviving national tiger population could face decimation, even extinction. Estimates in the late 1960s and early 70s that the tiger population had fallen to about 2,000, or less, was the first crisis, and it prompted Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to launch Project Tiger 1973 and to ban hunting and export of skins.

Project Tiger was a success. It was clear that the tiger population was recovering, and it led to widespread complacency until, in the early 1990s, tigers disappeared in the famous Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. A raid on a Tibetan house in Delhi uncovered 400 kg of tiger bones (possibly from some 30 tigers) ready for despatch to China for medicinal use. That was the second crisis. Action to control poaching was strengthened, and again the tiger population recovered.

Now the third crisis. Tigers are again missing from Ranthambhore, and have completely disappeared from the nearby Sariska reserve since mid-2004. A research scientist has declared that 30 tigers have disappeared from the Panna reserve, a claim denounced by Project Tiger officials.

The crisis has prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call on the Central Bureau of Investigation to take action and to summon a meeting of the Indian Board for Wild Life.

The tiger bone trade has overshadowed the high toll on leopards; and it is now clear that skins of both big cats are in high demand in China. In October 2003, Chinese customs officers stopped a truck heading for Lhasa with the skins of 31 tigers, 581 leopards and 778 otters. Last year, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) listed 29 seizures from July 1999 to July 2004 in which 80 tiger skins, 20,000 tiger claws, and 1,200 leopard skins were recovered. Most seizures were in India, four in Nepal, and five in China. (see Cat News 41).

Exactly how many tigers there are in India is not known. Official statistics from tiger pugmark censuses put the number at 3,600 in 2001-02. But Indian tiger experts, including a former Director of Project Tiger, believe there are many fewer, perhaps only about 2,000 –as when Project Tiger was launched in 1973.

The tiger population is fragmented across India like an archipelago. According to official figures, only Corbett, Kanha and the Sundarban, out of the 27 Project Tiger reserves, have over 100 tigers. Nine reserves have 50-100 tigers; and the rest fewer than 50, one in the north-east reporting only four. But these estimates are based on Project Tiger’s pugmark censuses, which scientists have declared unreliable and with exaggerated results.

It is not only poaching that threatens the tiger, leopard and much other wildlife in India. The human population has topped one billion – nearly twice as many people as when Project Tiger was launched. The population continues to increase leading to heavy pressure on protected areas and other wild habitats for living space and development.

In booming India industrialisation rules; the senior official in the Ministry of Environment and Forests has declared that environment legislation and processes are causing risks for investors and need reforming. Senior judges have said that environmental protection is only incidental in industrial development.

Many Indian reserves contain rich mineral deposits and there is pressure to exploit them; mining, often illegal, has already been encroaching on reserves. Central and state governments have a growing interest in promoting “eco-tourism” centres or theme parks at popular reserves. Ranthambhore’s director has complained that he faces constant demands from tourist organisations to increase the already excessive number of vehicles daily entering its small area.

Fortunately the Supreme Court has been supportive of conservation and has even appointed a Central Empowered Committee, including leading conservationists, to advise it; the committee has already issued instructions on protection to state governments.

The future of the tiger looks bleak, but it can be improved by serious action. The tiger can recover quickly from low numbers because it is highly reproductive. To give it that opportunity it is essential that the government of India and all authorities involved, demonstrate political will and take effective action to save the tiger. And not only India; that applies to all other tiger range countries. The tiger is part of their heritage and the flagship of wildlife conservation; its extinction would bode ill for the natural world.

Problem Tiger Response Team

According to official records, there are approximately 15-50 people killed by tigers every year. The actual number is realistically double that, since people who die later from their injuries, or people who were working in the forest without a permit go unrecorded. Tigers are then sometimes killed in retaliation by the local people. This unnecessary human hardship and animosity towards tigers impedes conservation efforts. To try to alleviate this problem, the Forest Department has started to form Problem Tiger Response Teams (PTRT).

A Problem Tiger Response Team is made up of STP and Forest Department staff trained (or being trained) to deal with situations where tigers are threatening human lives. Stickers advertising a “Tiger Hotline” are posted throughout all the villages and Forest Department patrol posts in and around the Sundarbans. If a tiger wanders into a village or kills someone then people at the scene can call for advise. Whenever necessary, the PTRT will go immediately to the area in question to help.

There is no set strategy for the team responding to a call; every situation will be different and therefore require adaptive solutions to keep both people and tigers safe. The number one priority will always be to minimize the possibility of human injury or deaths. In this regard, much of the PTRT’s efforts will be simply in keeping tiger and humans apart. Further actions will be dictated by the behavior of the tiger, and the immediate level of threat to human life.

Funding

The funding for the initial research program was provided by Save the Tiger Fund and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Funding for the Tiger Response Team for 2006-7 was provided by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund.
The USFWS have been a tremendous help to the project and recently awarded a grant to continue with activities such as: training forest department staff, tiger and prey monitoring to ensure that levels can be monitored to warn management of any sudden drops that require their attention, the development of a local and national awareness and education programme.
Logistical support, facilities, equipment and human resources are provided by the Forest Department of Bangladesh.

The project needs much more funding if it is going to make a real difference to tiger conservation.

Of particular urgency is funding for the Problem Tiger Response Team for January 2009. This boat-based team act as an ambulance in the forest to help tiger attack victims with emergency first aid and transport to nearest medical help.

Please get in touch with Christina Greenwood on tigerdata@gmail.com to find out which or our other iniatives require support, and with any ither queries and or suggestions relating to funding.

A brief introduction to the Sundarbans…

The Sundarbans forest has been in existence for about 4,000 years and has been formed by silt from the Himalayas brought down by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The Sundarbans waterways rise and fall with the Bay of Bengal tide, with high tide reached every 12 hours and 50 minutes. The Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India covers a total of 10,000 km2, 6,000 km2 of which is on the Bangladeshi side. It is classified as a mangrove forest from the collection of tree types that can survive in this highly saline environment. Mangrove forests support a unique mixture of plants and animals, but unfortunately there is little of this forest type remaining in the world.

the Bangladeshi people with wood, neepa, grass, honey, prawns, shrimp and fish.

The Sundarbans is also part of the cultural heritage of Bangladesh. When people from other countries think of Bangladesh, they nearly always associate it with the Sundarbans. In terms of the history of the Bangladeshi people, there are still the remains of the salt factories down in Katka and the 500-600 year old temples at Sheiker Tek. Linked to the future of the forest is the future of wild tigers. A well protected Sundarbans will ensure that future generations will know what it’s like to walk in a forest inhabited by wild tigers, and get the benefits of a healthier environment.

Protecting the tiger means keeping its home intact and functioning in a natural way. This relies on the continued interaction of many different plant and animal species . There are approximately 300 plant, 32 mammal, 35 reptile, 125 fish and 300 bird species so far listed for the Sundarbans. Each organism has an important role to fulfill.

The trees roots secure soil that would otherwise be washed away. Plants provide essential food and shelter to all the animals living in the Sundarbans. The trees also give stalking cover for the tiger. The tree cover is largely dominated by Sundri, Gewa, Goran, and Keora. When trees die and fall over, they provide a home to another set of animals, plants and fungi. The rotting woody material gets recycled and added to the composition and nutrient content of the soil. Tree trunks drifting out to sea are valuable resting places for a number of sea birds.

The tiger helps regulate the populations of deer, wild boar and monkey. When a tiger makes a kill, the valuable food of the carcass is then available to a wide range of different mammals (wild boar, jungle cats, civets, jackal), reptiles (monitor lizards), birds (crows, adjutant stalks, rufus tree pies) and insects.Deer, wild boar and monkey consume a lot of plant material, which in turn affects the general vegetation structure of the Sundarbans.

Their droppings provide nutrition to insects and plants, as well as disperse seeds so that plants can colonize new areas. The Irrawady dolphin, Gangetic dolphin, Finless porpoise and Indo-pacific hump-backed dolphins feed on the various fish species in the river, as do otters. In doing so, they are regulating fish stocks and providing sources of nutrition to other organisms. Fish feed on vegetation, insects, and in some cases, other fish. They are also the main food for many other animals. Bees, beetles, flies, butterflies and other insects all are important pollinators of plants.

They are also a vital component of the natural recycling system that turns dead plant and animal matter into nutrients that can be used by others. Monitor lizards are important scavengers of carcasses. Other types of lizards, such as Gekos, feed on insects. Snakes help keep the rodent population in check, while crocodiles feed on fish, birds and carrion.Birds fill a variety of roles in the Sundarbans, including being predators, prey, pollinators and seed dispersers.

Monsoon break (July-September, 2020)

As the rain pours down over the Sundarbans, some of the team (Chris and Adam) have retreated to the UK (where it is also raining), to write up reports and get ready for the upcoming season. Perhaps not so keen to experience an English summer, Hasan, Mizan and Alam are still in Bangladesh carrying out project work.

The Sundarbans being a large place, activities tend to take considerable time and effort to implement. The team has now handed a Forest Department Sundarbans Handbook to every Forest Department staff working in the Sundarbans, and in October they will have to visit everyone again to assess if the book has had any impact on the Forest Guard’s knowledge or motivation. The book distribution is probably one of the best initiatives we have come up with; it has the potential to have a large and tangible effect on the protection levels in the Sundarbans. By arming the Forest Guards with knowledge about tigers and the threats they face, we hope they will realize the huge value of their work and improve their efforts to keep the jungle safe for its wildlife and the people that use it. There are many signs of how well the book is being received but two in particular stand out so far. In one case, a FD guard heard about the book distribution but got tired of waiting for us to reach his guard post, so he traveled several hours by boat to go and borrow a copy from a colleague. In the second case we were conducting a training session for a new FD Response Team. In an open discussion session about how to deal with tigers killing livestock, a Forest Guard took over proceedings and talked at length about tiger biology, the species reliance on prey, the need to protect them for the health of the ecosystem, and the importance of the Sundarbans to the future of mankind. The words were his, but the information came straight out of the book.

Another success of the season was the prey survey carried out in the field by the FD and supported by Hasan and Alex. It is no small task to spend months scrambling about the jungle counting deer pellets, but they managed it on time and attained new heights of stoicism; somehow, they did not have nervous breakdowns when boats flooded, food ran out or when 200 liters of fuel they purchased turned out to be water.

Mizan and Alam had to cope with a more dangerous challenge. Working with the FD Tiger Response Teams, they had to deal with situations involving man-eating and livestock killing tigers. Sometimes they were training joint FD-village Response teams, other times they were giving vital medical assistance to tiger victims or even helping to retrieve bodies that had been taken into the forest by a tiger. The whole idea is to make the Sundarbans safer for both people and tigers by reducing the conflict between them in all its forms. Unfortunately 2 tigers were killed this year by villagers. One transient female tiger, probably only 3 years old, was killed by villagers near Nalian guard post when villagers found the tiger in fields near their village. This tiger had never killed any person or livestock but, without knowledge on tigers or skills to deal with them, the villagers panicked and beat the tiger to death. In a more recent case, villagers killed a tiger near Kadamtala Guard Post. The tiger had entered the village during the night, killed three people and was eventually surrounded by villagers who killed it then strung it from a tree. Such instances are not uncommon in the Sundarbans but we need to find ways to deal with the conflict if we are to stand a realistic chance of securing the future for tigers in the area.

On a research note, the findings of the FD tiger abundance survey have been published in the journal of Biological Conservation. The track survey found high tiger abundance in the south and west but lower abundance in the north-east. Now that we have a strong monitoring program we will be able to track changes in the tiger population over time so that we can measure if our conservation efforts are having an effect; if we are doing a good job then tiger numbers will remain stable or increase, if we are not being effective then the population will decline and the survey will help us identify problem areas where we need to put in more effort. The abstract of the paper can be found at:-

On a different note, Mizan, Alam and Hasan had a training session to improve their field skills with a visiting bear biologist, Rob Steinmetz, who works in Thailand for the WWF. Rob came over to help conduct a workshop on bears and survey some forests in the north of Bangladesh for bear sign. The workshop was organized by Dr Anwarul Islam and the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh. Rob enjoyed the warm hospitality of Bangladesh, and, together with the other participants, managed to find bear sign in part of the forest they surveyed. Alam, Mizan and Hasan learnt a lot about bears and tracking in general, which will stand them in good stead for their overall work in the field.

Over the monsoon, as well as project duties, Hasan will be finishing off his degree in Environmental science from North-South University while Alam and Mizan take computer and English classes down near Khulna. Next season they will need all the skills they can get, as tiger conservation makes what we hope will be a huge leap forward.

Adam Barlow and Christina Greenwood
Somewhere in the north of England

A brief introduction to the Tiger…

Tigers are part of a group of large cats that come under the name of Panthera. Tigers (Panthera tigris) are the largest of the big cats, but there is some size variation across their range. I often hear people saying that the Royal Bengal Tiger “is the largest, most cunning and ferocious tiger!”. In fact there is only 1 species of tiger in the world and 8 sub-species, of which the Royal Bengal Tiger is 1. Three of the 8 original sub-species are already extinct. Tigers in Bangladesh share many common characteristics with all other tigers, even if those tigers live in different countries and forest types.

The largest tigers on record come from central India and Nepal, the smallest from the Island of Sumatra and the Sundarbans. Male tigers are larger than females; an adult male in Nepal might weigh 200-250 kg + but an average female will be 150 kg. The first collared tiger in Bangladesh (Jamtola Rani) was only 75 kg, although her old age might have accounted for her slight build.

The animals that we recognize as tigers are thought to have first evolved about 2 million years ago in East Asia. Evolution occurs by natural selection, a term that refers to a process that leads to the accumulation of advantageous characteristics in a population. . In any population there will be variety in any characteristic, for example height or color etc. When a characteristic (like a claw length, coat pattern, tail length etc) gives an animal an advantage over others, then that animal has a better chance of surviving and passing on that characteristic to its offspring. In this way a particular characteristic can become more common over time. From East Asia, tigers started to move across the rest of Asia following the large deer and cattle species which dispersed at that time. The tiger is a specialist hunter of large hoofed animals. Its large canine teeth have been designed to inflict a killing bite to its prey, with the rest of its teeth adapted for holding and cutting through flesh. The claws are used for catching and controlling its prey. The stripes help keep the tiger hidden from watchful deer and monkeys, and its powerful body lets it make fast dashes to catch its food, after a long stalk gets it within range. Tigers only eat meat, normally getting most of their food from large to medium size wild cattle, deer and boar. However, they are opportunists that will eat most types of flesh if they get the chance.

Distribution
Tigers now live in a very small fraction of their former range. At present there are still wild tiger populations in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, China, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia. Tigers occupy a wide variety of forest types; for example in Russia the forest is very open and the ground is covered in snow through the winter months, whereas in Nepal they live in more humid conditions, occupying a mixture of grassland, riverine and moist-deciduous forest. There are now only about 5,000-7,000 wild tigers remaining. There are probably many times more people living in your local town then there are tigers left in the wild. Many tiger populations are small (less than 50 breeding adults), which makes them all the more vulnerable to poaching, disease and environmental catastrophes.

Threats
For a long time, the biggest threat to tigers was destruction of the forest. In the last 100 years or so, the forest cover, and therefore the space available for tigers, has been greatly reduced. Although in many countries this deforestation has slowed down or stopped, the tigers are far from safe. Poaching in particular, is a huge problem in many areas. There is a high price on the tigers’ head driven by a demand for products made from its different body parts. Some people still want to use tiger bones for medicinal use and the skins are still marks of wealth in some places. Much of the demand comes from markets in China, Taiwan, and South East Asia.

There are very few tigers left in China these days, so many tigers are now poached in India and smuggled into China through Nepal over high mountain passes. In Bangladesh, poaching seems to be at relatively low levels at present but this can change quickly. If tiger numbers in India decrease to the point where hunting becomes too difficult, then the highly organized poachers may shift their activities to the Sundarbans. Tigers are not anyone’s property, they have a right of their own to exist and their presence helps nature function properly and the world a more beautiful place.

If a tiger becomes habituated to killing man or cattle and no action is taken by the authorities, then local villagers will sometimes kill the tiger by poisoning or shooting. If this is not dealt with promptly then animosity towards tigers will grow and needless loss of human and tiger lives will continue. Learning about how tigers live and what sign they leave behind in the jungle will give some of the skills you need to start dealing with these problem animals. Tigers can also be killed indirectly. Poaching of deer and wild boar is taking food out of the tiger’s mouth. The amount of deer and other food available will determine how many tigers can live in a particular forest type. Also, some of the methods used for catching deer, like snaring, can inadvertently catch and sometimes kill tigers. There is a photo of a tiger in Nepal that had got caught in a deer snare. Skin and flesh had been ripped from the tiger’s flanks as it struggled to escape and the wire loop of the snare can still be seen wrapped tightly around its stomach. The tiger undoubtedly died a long and painful death as it gradually succumbed to its injuries.

It is also important to remember that everything in nature (atmosphere, rivers, trees, birds, insects, fish, reptiles and tigers etc) is connected; polluting or destroying one part of it, will weaken the rest. Companies allowing their factories to pump toxic chemicals into the river, are killing the sundarbans as surely as the deer poacher or illegal woodcutter.

Behaviour
Tigers are generally solitary and reclusive animals that shy away from human contact. Adult tigers hunt and live alone, only meeting for mating purposes or to fight. Tigers will sometimes fight because there is a limited space for all the tigers to live. Tigers are territorial, which means that they spend considerable time and energy defending an area because it contains an important resource necessary for their survival. Females defend a patch of forest that has enough prey to support themselves and any cubs they may produce. Although there may be a small degree of overlap, resident, breeding females will defend their patch of forest from other females. Because a female is basically defending food, the size of a female’s home range will be a good reflection on how much prey is available in a particular forest type. For instance, in Nepal, females have home ranges of 15-20 km2, but in Russia, where prey density is lower, a female can have a home range of over 400 km2. It is not in a female’s best interest to protect less area than she needs, because she will not be able to feed herself or her cubs properly. Likewise, if she defends more area than she needs, then she is wasting precious time and energy, as well as inviting more pressure from other female tigers who also want a territory of their own.

A male, on the other hand will try to get a territory that contains as many female territories as possible. In doing so, the male is protecting his breeding rights over these females. He spends a lot of time patrolling to make sure other males don’t come in. It will be slightly different from place to place, but a male tiger’s territory may cover 2-5 breeding females (3).

Both sexes will leave signs to warn other tigers not to enter their territory. All over its territory, but particularly on its borders, the tiger will spray trees and leave scrapes on the ground as visual and olfactory (smelly) signs of their presence. The female’s spray may also give information to a passing male about if she is ready to mate.
Tigers can be active at any time but they generally rest during the day and patrol and hunt during the hours of darkness. They have excellent hearing and good eyesight that helps them detect their prey in the dense mangrove forest.

They will spend a lot of time stalking their prey before a final rush from close range. Hunts are very often unsuccessful because the prey can sometimes smell, hear or see the tiger before it gets too close. If a tiger manages to make a kill it will continue to feed on it until only some bones and a few scraps of skin remain. During the day a tiger will generally lie up in thick vegetation close to its food, returning to it when darkness starts to fall.

Tigers do not in general prey on man but some can turn into man-eaters. There is an important distinction though between tigers that kill humans by accident or out of defense, and “man-eaters” who actively seek out humans to kill for food. Why a tiger becomes a man-eater is not well understood. In some cases a tiger might kill a human if it feels threatened or when it is defending its food or cubs. In other cases it may be that the tiger is very old or has acquired some injury that stops it from hunting its normal prey. There may also be individual tigers that are just naturally more aggressive than others.

Life history
Female tigers give birth to 2-4 cubs after a 100-104 day pregnancy. The cubs are very small when they are born and for the first 10 days or so cannot open their eyes. For a long time they are totally dependant on their mother. It will take around 6 months before they stop taking their mother’s milk and move on to eating meat. The cubs stay with their mother for 18 months to 2 years. During that time they develop the necessary hunting skills they will need when they have to fend for themselves. Before it is time to leave their natal area, they will be similar in size to their mother if they are female and larger if they are male. This explains some reports of people seeing 3 or 4 “adult” tigers together at one time in the Sundarbans. These 3 or 4 “adults” are in fact a mother and her large cubs, all still living together. When the cubs (now sub-adults) leave, they have a dangerous time ahead of them as they try and find a place of their own to live and reproduce. When the cubs leave, the mother will produce a new litter of cubs.

Neither males nor females will reproduce without first acquiring a territory. If a new male takes away a territory from the previous resident, he will try and kill all the old male’s cubs so that he can mate with the females as soon as possible. Females normally start reproducing from between 3 and 4 years of age and males don’t generally get big and strong enough to get a territory of their own until they are about 5 years old. Although they live longer in zoos, the oldest wild tiger on record was a female from Nepal that lived until she was 17. Many tigers die young while still cubs. More die after they leave their mother’s territory and before they get a territory of their own. During this time when they are searching for a new territory they are called transients. If they do go on to get a territory they have a very limited time in which to produce offspring; breeding females live until 7-14 years old and males until 6-12 years old. If the tiger becomes injured or too weak to defend its territory or catch its normal prey, then that tiger will die after a very short time. Such a tiger may also be more likely to come close to villages to kill cattle or sometimes people.