The majestic tiger was once found in large numbers all over the subcontinent. It
was feared, misunderstood, admired, and even worshiped as the vehicle of goddess

Durga. In our own times, when man has all but wiped out this wonderful animal,
few of us know what a tiger is like up close… At a time when tigers were
hunted in the name of sport, the Maharaja of Dholpur ordered a beat. Some two
hundred men formed a wide semicircle, beating drums and canisters in order to
flush out the tiger hiding in the undergrowth and drive him towards the hunters
waiting in a vehicle at the opposite end. But the tiger in question had other
ideas. Instead of running towards the vehicle, he whipped around and tore
through the line of beaters. In doing so, its right fore paw landed on the head
of one of the beaters. There was a sickening sound of bones being crushed and
the luckless man’s head and neck simply disappeared within the thoracic cavity.

The tiger has phenomenal strength but doesn’t use strength alone to knock down
its prey. Essentially a loner, he believes in stealth and ambush. Thus he
approaches his prey up-wind, so his smell won’t give him away. And he patiently
stalks his prey, advancing very, very slowly, ears laid back, legs drawn under
him, belly to the ground, waiting and watching for the right moment. In the
process the tiger takes advantage of every scrap of cover that the surrounding
bushes and creepers can afford. Finally, rising to a crouching position, muscles
superbly coordinated and taut with a purpose, he makes a lightning charge. A
tiger most often attacks its prey from behind. Laying his chest against the back
of the animal, the tiger grabs the neck with his canines. As a rule, the sheer
weight of the tiger is enough to snap the backbone of the victim. But should
follow-up action be necessary, it includes driving the claws into the trachea
and hanging on till the animal is choked to death. The tiger makes good use of
its formidable, retractable claws in capturing and holding on to its prey. It
looks after those claws too, by sharpening them on tree trunks. Like a hunter
anywhere, the tiger is merciless, showing no quarter to his victims. But then,
unlike man, he does not kill for sport. He kills to survive. A tigress kills for
herself and to sustain her liter. If lives are lost and blood is shed on the
forest floor, it is a part of nature’s plan. Should tigers suddenly have a
change of heart and turn vegetarian, their prey species would multiply without
let or hindrance, upsetting the balance of nature. At the same time, since a
tiger kills only to satisfy a basic biological need, there is no danger of
tigers wiping out a particular prey species. But a bit more about the tiger’s
eating habits, more particularly, his table manners. Having made a kill, he
generally drags it to the shade of a bush where he can eat in peace. He starts
feeding from the rump and hind legs and is a clean feeder. Opening the stomach
cavity with one swift movement of its claws, almost surgical in precision, he
removes the stomach and intestines and is known to carry the lot some distance
away and dump it. If the kill is large enough, a tiger may feed on it for 4 – 5
days. In the process he despatches all the flesh, small bones, skin and hair.

The hair in fact provides the roughage in the tiger’s diet, helping the process
of digestion. Having eaten his fill, a tiger may hide the kill and return to it
later. Sometimes, being completely satiated, he may not hunt at all for a day or
two. The tiger is a nocturnal animal. Since he avoids the heat and the direct
rays of the sun, most of the daylight hours are spent holed up near a nullah,
lazing in shallow water or snatching some sleep in the cool of a clump of
bamboo. Hunting time is dusk or later, sometimes just before the crack of dawn.

But hunting in our tangled forests is no cakewalk. Only one in ten attempts
leads to a successful kill. True, the tiger himself is not easy to spot, given
his coloring and the black stripes that blend so perfectly with the general
pattern of light and shade in the forest. But the forest has its own team of
watchmen — the kakar, langur and jungle babbler — who are quick to spot a
carnivore on the move and lose no time giving out the alarm call. The prey
species too are alert, with a highly developed instinct for self preservation.

Out in the wilds, a tiger is not necessarily an unfriendly animal. Two adult
males have been known to rub heads together in passing. But the fact remains
that the tiger is a territorial animal, marking its domain by spraying the trees
around, much like a dog. The tiger safeguards its territory, too, by constantly
patrolling and with the help of that great thunderous roar which, coming from an
adult tiger, can be heard all of three kilometers away. An intruder into a
tiger’s territory is more than likely to meet with death. For this offence, many
leopards has been killed and devoured. The renowned authority on tigers, Valmik

Thapar, as all praise for the mother tiger. According to him, she devotes every
minute of the first two years of the cubs” life to feeding and caring for them.

From suckling the cubs to providing them with a diet of fresh meat, this is
certainly not an easy task. She not only hunts for them but, at a kill, keeps
exposing the tender inner layers of meat for her children to eat. Should the
tiger sense danger to her babies, she’ll gently pick them up by the neck and
carry them to the new den, one by one. A tiger learns all his skills from his
mother. Thus she keeps twitching her tail from side to side so the cub may learn
to stalk a moving animal. She teaches them how to attack, when to attack and
when to give a wide berth. A tigress and her cubs may play endless family games
but she is quick to reprimand them with a low growl or a light cuff with one
paw, should a reprimand be called for. The cubs spend two years with the mother
and then separate. Sometimes siblings tend to stay together for longer but
sooner or later they go, each his own way. The droppings of adult male tigers
have sometimes revealed baby tiger claws, leading to the widespread belief that
a male tiger will not hesitate to devour its own offspring. Valmik Thapar
reports a case where a male tiger visited his family every four or five days and
took an active part in providing them with food. There was no question of
practicing infanticide. However, if a tigress loses the mate who sired her
litter and takes on another mate, the new father is likely to make short work of
his foster cubs. Simply because he wants to father his own and the tigress will
not be ready to reproduce again till the first litter is grown up and no longer
needs her. The legendary hunter-naturalist, Jim Corbett, has done much to put
the record straight in favor of the tiger. According to Corbett, no tiger is by
instinct a cattle lifter or man-eater because neither cattle nor man form part
of his normal diet. But sometimes a tiger is driven to attack them because he
cannot stalk or hunt down his natural prey, either on account of old age or a
serious injury. Normally a tiger cleans his wounds with his tongue and they heal
fast enough. But if the injury is deep, as that caused by porcupine quills or a
stray bullet lodged in the flesh, or if one of his limbs is broken, the tiger is
helpless. Unable to run and driven by pangs of hunger, the tiger attacks the
easiest prey — cattle and man. Thus cattle lifters and man-eaters are made, not
born. The celebrated wildlife photographers Naresh and Rajesh Bedi who have made
some spellbinding films on the tiger, once trailed a tigress for the purpose in

Kanha National Park. They were never more than 30 to 50 feet away from the
animal but she allowed their team to follow her closely because they had spent a
lot of time with her and she had got used to them. But also because she had a
good temper. “Never follow a tiger if it is stalking its prey!” warns

Naresh Bedi. No story about the tiger is complete without mention of the Royal

Bengal Tiger, living in the mangrove forests known as the Sunderbans. Quite
simply, the Royal Bengal Tiger is magnificent to look at, reddish brown in color
and with broad black stripes on his head and back. He has adapted himself
beautifully to life in an estuary, where the fresh water of streams mingles with
the salt water of the sea. Thus, it is lightly built and smaller than others of
its kind, and the only semi aquatic tiger anywhere in the world. And that speaks
volumes, for the tiger, any tiger, is an expert swimmer anyway, known to cross a
mile wide river in a straight line! The Sunderbans tiger is happy to hunt in
water because he enjoys a diet of fish, crabs and turtles! Unfortunately, this
tiger carries a man-eater tag and several reasons have been advanced for his
reputation. People like grass cutter, wood and honey gatherers must, of
necessity, venture in to the mangrove forests. Often, these men disturb a
sleeping tiger or worse, a tigress with cubs, and do not live to tell the tale.

Sometimes, when the Sunderbans tiger sees fishermen carrying home the day’s
catch, he either dives headlong into the boat or tilts it to help himself to the
booty. In the ensuing scuffle, some fishermen do get killed. Experts concede
that the Sunderbans tiger probably has a taste for human flesh, having drunk so
long at the saline estuarine waters. It has been observed that these tigers
seldom drink at any of the eleven fresh water tanks in that area. A significant
detail, but who shall vouch for the truth? Well I hope that after reading this
you have gained a little bit more knowledge about the tigers in India and also
have realized that for the most part they are not man-eaters unless need be.

What animal doesn’t get mad or defensive when disturbed sleeping (I know I

do). Or even worst what mother is not overly protective of her kids/young. When
you have an animal that is this powerful you are going to have people killed by
it. I am sure you can tell that I am very fond of the tiger that is why this
paper is so long but I felt that a lot of this info was important and I figured
what the heck I had four days to work on it.