Bengal tigers -- Panthera tigris tigris, or Panthera tigris bengalensis

Bengal - Page 1&2: In The Wild | 3: In Captivity | 4: Subspecies Description | 5: Weight & Length Figures |
6: Conservation

Bengal tiger captive numbers:

Indian zoos have bred tigers since 1880, with the first successful attempt occurring at Alipore Zoo in Calcutta. Since then the Bengal tiger has bred freely in captivity. It has reached the stage where contraceptives are needed to prevent an excess of captive tigers, for which adequate facilities may not be available.

The 1994 International Tiger Studbook listed 333 captive Bengal tigers. One of these, a tigress, was in a North American zoo, while the rest were within India.

289 were the standard orange colouring; the remaining 44 were the rare white form of the Bengal. By 1997 only 210 were listed.

Hybridisation in the Bengal subspecies:

Unfortunately, some zoos have permitted other tiger subspecies to interbreed with their Bengals and this means many are of questionable lineage.

Re-establishing a clean list of suitable breeding cats is considered a priority for assisting this subspecies.

Mistakes continue to occur in captivity, resulting in the unnecessary loss of endangered species like the tiger.

Zoo deaths:

One of India's premier showcase zoos is Nandankanan Zoological Park. In August 2000, 13 Royal Bengal tigers died here; nine in one night; eight being white tigers.

It is unfortunate that in the close confines of captivity an illness in one cat can soon infect others. This time it occurred in a country which has no animal rights laws, keepers with little or no training in animal biology, and few vets on-call in zoos. Had these things been routine, the standard of care would certainly have been a great deal higher.

Common reasons for death in zoos include:

    • A virus or viruses.
    • Repeated inbreeding.
    • Disease due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

    Various answers were put forward for the deaths at Nandankanan Zoological Park.

    Zoo authorities initially claimed the 13 tigers died of sleeping sickness which is carried by the tsetse fly. The government's Pathological Laboratory in Calcutta showed a different cause; the feeding of decomposed and contaminated cow meat.

    After a cyclone the zoo wanted to cut down on expenses. They chose to withhold food from the animals once a week -- and to feed substandard meat.

    During the illness the tigers were supposedly medicated, yet no samples of this medication were forthcoming.  

Bengal - Page 1&2: In The Wild | 3: In Captivity | 4: Subspecies Description | 5: Weight & Length Figures |
6: Conservation

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 Photography With Thanks To Shirley Curtis (Photo 1)
Roger M
aioroff (Photo 2)
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