Scientific Name: Panthera tigris
IUCN Red List status: Endangered
Protected by the following WLT project
Species Range (IUCN)
The tiger is the largest of all the big cat species. With its stripy orange coat and long, striped tail, tigers are very recognisable. An adult Bengal Tiger can be up to 3 metres long, tail included, and weigh more than 250 kilograms.
Adult tigers have white spots of fur on the back of each ear, so their young can easily follow them in low light. No two tigers have the same stripes. Numbers of stripes and thickness of stripes can vary, so individual tigers can be identified by markings on their body, face or tail.
Although there is only one species of tiger in the world, it is divided into sub species. There are six remaining subspecies of tiger: Bengal (Indian), Sumatran, Amur (Siberian), Malayan, Amoy (South China) and Indochinese.
All tigers, including the Bengal Tiger, are carnivorous. The Bengal Tiger catches prey using the ‘stalk and ambush’ method, quietly tracking prey and then attacking it, usually from behind, rather than chasing it down.
Tigers are solitary, unless it is a mother with cubs.
Tigers can become man-eaters. One of the methods that has been used in the past to prevent Bengal Tiger attacks on humans is for people at risk to wear a mask on the back of the head, so it looks like the human is watching from behind.
The Bengal Tiger is a highly adaptable animal and can be found in a wide range of different habitats including forests, mangroves and wetlands in hot, cold or dry conditions.
Due to the extreme threats faced by Bengal Tigers in the wild, conservation efforts focus on combatting poaching and protecting areas and wildlife corridors that are known to be used by tigers. In a densely populated country like India, human-wildlife conflict is exacerbated, and although residents are often willing to relocate to safer areas, moving large numbers of people is time consuming.
A census of tigers in India published in 2014 suggesting that tiger numbers are now increasing is encouraging. But, nonetheless, most sources agree that all sub species of tiger are now restricted to 7 per cent of their original historical range. There are fewer than 2,000 Bengal Tigers left in the wild, however, this is still the largest population of all the subspecies. Hunting and human population growth are the main threats to Bengal Tigers. As human population expands people need more places to live, which reduces the amount of wild habitat for the tiger. People also need more food to eat and may well hunt the same animals for food as the tigers rely on for their survival.
Bengal Tigers may be hunted for trophies or for body parts or skins. They are also hunted if they prey on domestic livestock, and because of this have even been declared ‘pests’ in some areas.
Due to habitat destruction and fragmentation, as well as hunting, three of the nine sub-species of tiger that have existed in modern times are now extinct. All remaining tigers are classified as Endangered by IUCN (with the Sumatran and South China subspecies classified as Critically Endangered).
See IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for more information on the classification of the Bengal Tiger.