With the densest population of the animal in the world, the Indian subcontinent is home to the majority of dedicated Tiger holidays. The country's top reserves – the national parks of Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna – provide the most consistent opportunities for multiple sightings of the big cat. |
While there are six surviving subspecies of Panthera tigris, the most common is Panthera tigris tigris – the Bengal Tiger. It is this magnificent creature that participants will encounter on Tiger holidays to India, with the subspecies numbering over half the total global population of the big cat.
Panthera tigris tigris
The Bengal Tiger (also called the Indian or Royal Bengal) has been an intrinsic part of Indian culture and lore throughout history - it is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh. Today, there are around 2,200 of these big cats living in India.
One reason for their comparatively dense population in India is due to the establishment of dedicated reserves in the 1970s, but habitat loss and poaching still threaten their survival.
Size: The male can reach a weight of up to 260kg, measure up to 310cm in length (from nose to tip of tail), and stand 110cm at the shoulders. It is the second-largest subspecies after the Siberian Tiger.
Teeth: Their teeth are incredibly strong and robust, with the canines among the longest of all the felids - measuring up to a skull-crushing 10cm in length.
Coat: Their coat can be light yellow ranging up to orange, with black or dark brown stripes that are unique to each animal. The tail is usually a darker orange with black rings. The underbelly and inner area of legs is white.
Senses: They have incredibly acute hearing, up to five times better than humans. Their eyesight is also very strong, with particularly good night vision to aid their nocturnal hunting habits.
Habitat: Panthera tigris tigris dwells in jungles, high-altitude grasslands, dense forests and mangrove swamps throughout India, with smaller populations also found in Nepal, China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Hunting habits: They are carnivorous apex predators. Predominantly nocturnal, they stalk their prey before pouncing and killing, usually by a powerful bite to the throat to sever the spinal cord. They prefer to hunt medium to larger mammals like deer, cattle or wild boar.
Reproduction: They can mate at any time of the year, but the female only remains in 'estrus' for periods of three to six days. The gestational period is three to four months, after which she gives birth to a litter of two to five cubs. The cubs are totally dependent on their mother up until they're about 18 months.
Lifespan: Around 18-25 years.
Conservation status: Despite being the most numerous of all subspecies, its conservation status is currently 'endangered'. Their number is just half that of a decade ago.
Threats: As an apex predator, their only real threat is from man, due to habitat loss and poaching. Unfortunately, their body parts remain extremely popular for use in traditional Chinese medicines.
Today's dedicated Tiger holidays make it possible for wildlife enthusiasts to enter the world of this majestic big cat to observe it in the heart of its natural habitat, in a safe and responsible way. For those who take part, it is invariably a life-affirming and unforgettable experience.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Tigers. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Tiger holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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