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

Above: This image was taken in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. Among the observers is Valmik Thapar, the Executive Director of the Ranthambhore Foundation and one of the world's leading tiger experts.

The Bengal tiger Species Survival Program:

A successful zoo studbook program was established for the Bengal way back in 1880. This was not the first organised breeding programme for tigers; that honour goes to the Amur subspecies.

Despite early recognition of the need to conserve the Bengal, in the 1950s and early 1960s more than 3,000 tigers lost their lives to trophy hunters, most of these being tourists. As recently as 1970 it was still legal to hunt them and export skins.

Project Tiger:

With the support of Indira Ghandi, India's national emblem became a protected animal in 1972. At the same time Project Tiger was formed and resulted in the development of 23 national parks devoted specifically to saving the tiger.

Within the parks certain areas were designated as breeding grounds. These had wide buffer zones and were declared out of bounds to the public. It was hoped that as tiger populations increased any surplus cats would migrate to neighbouring forests. Travel routes were established which provided easy access to new forest areas and encouraged the tigers to move territories. 

To begin with, this plan was a great success and the tiger count showed an increase. During the initial 11 years of operation tiger numbers went from approximately 1,800 to more than 4,000.


After Mrs. Ghandi's assassination in 1984 these figures were questioned and the true result may have been considerably lower. However, there is little doubt a significant improvement was seen during the golden years of Project Tiger. 

Once Mrs. Ghandi was no longer in control tigers once more began to vanish at an alarming rate -- and that included those in wildlife parks.

Politicians began to listen more to the local peasant farmers who wanted to clear the forests and convert them for agricultural use. 

Buffer zones and access routes were encroached upon and forest areas once more fell under the axe. With the loss of habitat prey animals began to disappear or were killed by the people for food.

Population growth and rural developments like the construction of vast dams in the country destroyed the natural habitat of the tiger.

Poachers accelerated tiger loss through snaring, shooting and poisoning. Body parts were then exported illegally to China for use in traditional folk medicines. In other areas such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, wars only made the situation worse. 

Today India contains 60% of the world's tigers, but conservationists are watching in horror as the numbers once more steadily decline. It is considered vitally important that the Indian Government once more provide the Bengal tiger with much-needed protection and care. As part of this, immediate DNA-profiling of all wild tigers must be carried out to identify and segregate any Bengal/Amur hybrids.

Predictions have been made that the Royal Bengal tiger could be extinct by 2010. Ironically, this is the next 'Year of the Tiger'.

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 Aditya Singh (Photos 1, 3)
Lisa Purcell (Photo 2)
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.