With a whopping 93 percent reduction in their natural habitat over the last century, the tigers are left with nowhere to go. Of the 9 recognized subspecies, 3 have become extinct, 1 extinct in the wild, 1 is critically endangered and 4 are considered endangered.
The streaks, the speed, the agility, the characteristic walk and the athletic build make the tiger, the most sought after big cat. Tigers can run great distances, climb difficult vertical slopes, swim their way through and leap better than any predator. A tiger can pull five times a greater force than a well built human. All this, however, has become meaningless today, as the animal is left at the mercy of humans. Historically, tigers were found across Asia, right from Turkey to Russia. Today, their population is restricted to a few countries in south Asia; and even here, their habitat has been reduced to small pockets.
Distribution and Habitat of the Tiger
In terms of distribution, tigers are found across Eurasia, and their native habitat is spread throughout eastern Asia and the Russian Far East. India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Indonesia (Sumatra) are some of the countries where tigers are found. The Royal Bengal Tiger is in fact considered the national animal of India and Bangladesh. Of the estimated 3000 odd tigers left in the world, almost half are found in protected areas like tiger reserves and sanctuaries, and still, they are not safe from poachers.
The habitat of tigers roughly extends from the broadleaf and mixed forests of Siberia to open grasslands and sunderbans (tropical mangrove swamps) of the Indian subcontinent. Tigers are water lovers and they incredibly enjoy cool areas. In fact, the Bengal tigers, native to the sunderbans of south Asia, are known to be excellent swimmers. All the aforementioned places are tropical regions, which makes them abundant with rain, water and water sources. The tropical forests which tigers inhabit are also known for their biodiversity, and there is no dearth of food supply for the tiger - at least there wasn't, until now.
Tigers are built like any other cat breed, however, they are much bigger in size. While the size of any species makes them powerful, it also adds to their woes by making it easier for the other animals to spot them. In case of tigers, however, this is not an issue, as their uneven stripes help them camouflage - virtually making them invisible in the dense cover of trees or tall and thick grass of their native habitat. The Royal Bengal Tiger is the quintessential orange wild cat with black stripes. Interestingly, no two tigers have similar stripes. They say, that if you ever shave a tiger (that's if you ever!), you'd see the stripes on the skin too. The other type of tigers are, white tigers or albino tigers. They are white in color with sometimes a tinge of gray. Their stripes are either black or very dark blue in color. These are the found in snow clad regions, like Siberia.
Are Tigers Leaving the Forests for Easy Prey?
Tigers are carnivorous in nature, primarily known to feed on herbivores like chitals, elks, deer, wild pigs, etc. They often prefer solitary hunting, resorting to ambush technique wherein they stay low waiting for the prey to close in and then attack it. Decline in herbivore population in the tiger's habitat has forced the animal encroach upon human settlements where food is relatively easier to find. The instances of tigers stealing cattle, sheep, goats, and other domesticated animals from humans settlements in the vicinity of forests are on rise.
Habitat fragmentation is yet another factor which contributes to man-animal conflicts. Clearance of forest land for agriculture and settlement purposes has fragmented the habitat of a tiger to such an extent that the animal has to come into conflict with humans even if it has to pass from one part to another. In sunderbans, humans come in conflict with the tiger when they go fishing. These people wear masks and face paintings at the back of their head to avoid an off guard tiger attack; a technique which banks on the fact that the tiger usually attacks from behind.
Reality of Tiger Lands
We need to wake up to the reality of endangered tigers. Due to the supreme quality of fur and looks they are often hunted. Other than that, tigers are hunted for their use in traditional medicines. It is believed that the bones, fat, liver and penis of a tiger have medicinal uses, which is far from the truth. As a superstition goes, tiger's whiskers are an alluring aphrodisiac in Indonesia, deadly poison in Malaysia and a help during childbirth in India and Pakistan.
Due to excessive poaching, tigers have become one of the endangered species of the world. There are innumerable programs designed to save tiger sanctuaries, the natural habitats for tigers. Today, the estimated population of tigers stands at a timid figure of 3000-4000. Tigers are a very essential part of our ecosystem, which we cannot lose to the selfish interests of a handful of poachers.
Awareness is the need of the hour, as knowing in detail about the tiger's habitat is very important if we are to take some action to save them. They are already an endangered species, so I hope, I have helped you understand the tiger habitat and there the reality of their dwindling numbers. So unless we want to see them figure in the list of extinct animals, let's work towards preserving the habitats of this majestic beast.