White Tiger

Cat of the Month ~ January 2012
white tiger image
The White Tiger, rarely seen in the wild.
Photograph: animal-wildlife.blogspot.com

White tigers are basically a colour variant of the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris bengalensis), and are rarely found in the wild. It is though, reported as having been seen in the wild from time to time in the Assam, Bengal, and Bihar regions of India and especially from the former State of Rewa (in fact home to the very first white tiger). It is believed that all white tigers in captivity in the world today are the descendants of this single white tiger, caught (and named ‘Mohan’) by the Maharajah of Rewa in the year 1951.

The White Tiger is almost identical to the now famous Royal Bengal Tiger except for a genetic mutation that causes a change in the colour of the fur and eyes. The origin of the Bengal Tiger is believed to be from the region we know today as Siberia. From there, these Siberian Big Cats (Panthera tigris altaica) migrated south over the course of thousands of years (and as the climate of their native territory became colder). Today Asia, India and Malaysia all are home to tigers (some of which are white due to genetic mutation), although their numbers are dwindling.

White tigers are only born when two tigers that both carry the unusual gene for white colouring, mate. Unfortunately there are many forced breeding programs currently in progress which are detrimental to those tigers bred in captivity. This is indeed often a sad tale which is outlined in the following very serious and informative article [White Tigers – Conserving Misery]. (Not for the very young or easily upset, Ed)

Where present, white (and other) Bengal tigers will be found regions of dense undergrowth and forested areas where they can camouflage themselves and ambush their prey.

Though, today white tigers are mostly confined in zoos (for example the Nandan Kanan Zoo in Orissa, India) they are also found in many National parks, such as those in India and the Far East.

Tiger

Cat of the Month ~ June 2011
The tiger is the largest of the four Big Cats in the genus Panthera. Panthera Tigris is native to much of eastern and southern Asia though its range has been diminishing steadily for many years.

large Sumatran tiger
An adult Sumatran Tiger stalks prey in the forest
Photograph: No Credit for this Image
The largest (Siberian) tigers measure up to 3.3 metres (11 feet) in total length and weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). The most numerous tiger subspecies is the Bengal tiger. Tigers have a lifespan of ten to fifteen years in the wild, but can live longer than twenty years in captivity. They are a highly adaptable cat, and range from the Siberian coniferous forests (taiga) to the open grasslands of India and the Indonesian tropical mangrove swamps. Tigers are territorial and generally solitary animals, requiring large areas of deep dense vegetation (in which to hide and stalk, by means of its camouflaged colouring), proximity to drinking water, and of course an abundance of prey. Tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers (especially in the heat of the day). Together with the jaguar, the tiger is a strong swimmer and is able to carry large prey animals through water as it swims (no doubt using its sharp teeth (which grow up to 5 inches in length) and extremely strong jaws to grip the prey carcass. Incidentally, 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 (not its sharp teeth).

Sadly, the tiger is an extremely endangered species, primarily due to human intervention (in deforestation and fragmentation in their habitat and also because of human hunting) but also due to the dangers of everyday existence. For example, only fifty percent of Tiger cubs survive to independence from their mother, which occurs at around two years of age. Also only 40 percent of these survivors live to establish a territory and begin to produce young. The risk of mortality continues to be high even for territorial adults, especially for males, which must defend their territories from other males. Consequently (with the human threat coupled with the everyday dangers of life) three of the nine subspecies of modern tiger have now gone extinct, and the remaining six are classified as endangered, some critically so.

a tiger runs in the snow
Tiger ~ clawing the powder snow as it runs
Photograph: Creative Commons
Tigers are among the most recognisable, and are in fact the most popular, of the world’s animals. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern texts and videos. Tigers appear on many flags and as mascots for sporting teams. Tigers are the national animal of several Asian nations, including India.

Tigers typically have rusty-reddish to brown coats, a whitish underbelly to rear area and a white ruff that surrounds the lower jaw, neck and chin. Of course the tiger is well known for its stripes. These can vary in colour from brown or grey to pure black. The form and density of stripes differs between all the subspecies (as well as the ground coloration of the fur). The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal, these unique markings can be used by researchers to identify individuals (both in the wild and captivity).. Unusually, the stripe pattern is also found on the skin of the tiger (shown when the fur is removed). It is believed but not proven that most tigers have over one hundred stripes around the body. Continue reading