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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 3m long1, tail included, and weigh more than 250kg1.
Adult tigers have white spots of fur on the back of each ear, so their young can easily follow them. 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 species4. 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 stalking 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 conditions4.
Threats and Conservation
Most sources agree that all sub species of tiger are now restricted to 7% of their original historical range4. There are less than 2,000 Bengal Tigers left in the wild, however, this is still the largest population of all the subspecies4. 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 areas2.
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)4.