Bengal Tiger

IUCN Red List status - Endangered

The Bengal tiger, also called Indian tiger is only marginal smaller than the Amur tiger. Their distribution goes across 4 different countries, though the majority of them
(approximately 1,900) live in India. Other home range countries of the Bengal tiger are Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

According to the IUCN
(International Union for Conservation of Nature) the total Bengal tiger population is currently estimated to be up to around 2,500 individuals across their entire range (all 4 countries) . This makes it the widest spread and numerous tiger subspecies.

In spite of the relatively high number of Bengal tigers, this tiger subspecies is classified as 'Endangered' based on the continuing threats of
  • poaching,
  • habitat loss,
  • prey depletion,
  • human/wildlife conflict.

The differnet countries, where Bengal tigers live, provide an indication of the wide ranging habitat. This tiger subspecies can be found from coniferous mounntain forests
(cold climate) to tropical and subtropical forests or even in mangrove and swamp type land.

The territory size for any big cat species and also for any tiger subspecies depend on prey availability. Interestingly, it was however observed that the home range of a Bengal tiger is by far smaller than the one of Amur tigers. The range for a male Bengal tiger may be only up to just over 100km2, and it might be as small as 30km2, if prey is available in abundance. In comparison the home range of a male Amur tiger may reach well over 1,000km2. The territory of a female Bengal tiger is between 10km2 and 39km2.

The life expectancy for a wild Bengal tiger is up to 12 years, but in captivity they may reach an age far older than this - up to 20 years.

White Tigers

Some people may tell you that white tigers are a separate species, but they are not. White tigers are by nature Bengal tigers, who have a recessive gene that causes a lack of dark pigments and through this a white coat. The white tigers are not colourless; i.e. they are not albinos.

The last white tiger seen, was captured in India in 1951. Reports vary on whether he was separated from mum and his normal coloured siblings or whether he was found orphaned. He was however trapped and bred first with a normal coloured tigress and then with one of his own offsprings
(in an attempt to bring out the recessive gene and the white coat).

All white tigers in captivity go back to this one male white tiger captured back in 1951. Through the continues inbreeding
(getting the white coat) and also crossbreeding with other tiger subspecies, white tigers are often still-born or born with deformations or immune indeficiencies. If they are born alive and survive the first year, they still die often of cancer or other health issues prematurely.

Zoo guidelines
(e.g. by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria [EAZA]) advise against breeding white tigers based on the health issues associated with this. White tigers may still be bred in private collections or by non-Zoo and Aquaria members (non-members of BIAZA, EAZA or AZA) . Due to this uncontrolled breeding, white tigers may sometimes still come as rescue animals to responsible zoos and wildlife parks.

The information about Amur tigers was sourced from the IUCN, 21st Century Tiger, EAZA, The Dodo and The Times of India web pages