White tigers are an endangered species and it is said that less than a dozen have been seen in India in about a hundred years. In fact no sightings have been reported since 1951. This may be caused by the fact that the Royal Bengal tiger population has dropped from 40,000 to 1,800 in the past ten years and as few as one in every 10,000 tigers is white (www.cranes.org/whitetiger).
White tigers are neither albinos nor a special species. They differ from the normally colored tigers by having blue eyes, a pink nose, and creamy white fur with black stripes. If they were albinos they would have pink eyes and a lighter nose color. A tigers stripes are just like human fingerprints meaning that no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes. White tigers aren't necessarily born from other white tigers. White tigers get their color by a double recessive allele. A Bengal tiger with two normal alleles or one normal and one white allele is colored orange. Only a double dose of the mutant allele results in white tigers (www.cranes.org/whitetiger). In fact it is even normal to find normal colored cubs in a litter of white tigers (www.5tigers.org.com).
The scientific name for a tiger is Panthera Tigris Tigris. It was initially felis tigris but the genus was changed to panthera because of the tiger's characteristic round pupils (www.geocities.com). The largest of the big cats may grow to over 12 feet long from its head to the tip of its tail, and weigh as much as 660 pounds (Cavendish,696).
The white tiger has long been the focus of human fear and respect for years because of its powerful muscular body, loud roar, and frightening snarl revealing large, sharp teeth. Tigers spend all of their time alone which is very unusual (Thapar,115). Each tiger has its own territory, which it marks by scratching the barks of trees, spraying urine, and leaving piles of feces (Cavendish,696). Males are particularly aggressive toward other males and in some cases fights result in death of the weaker tiger. The territories may contain two or three female tigers but in most cases the area extends to over 40 square miles (DuTemple,15).
Tigers are nocturnal animals and prefer to hunt their food under the cover of dense vegetation. They hunt by stealth, stalking their prey silently through the trees in a low crouch until it is within 66 feet (McClung107). The tiger then bounds forward, knocking its victim over with a swipe of its huge forepaw and pouncing on their victims back as it falls to the ground (Cavendish,696). Tigers never creep up on their prey in the same direction as the wind is blowing because the scent of the tiger will be carried to their victim (Morris,87). The tiger kills small prey by a single bite to the back of the neck with its large, powerful jaws and sharp teeth (Cavendish,696). It deals with larger prey by getting a suffocating grip on the throat. Once it has made a kill, the tiger usually drags the carcass under cover before beginning to feed (Morris,87). As the tiger eats it will make loud growling and snarling noises to warn the predators in the area (Thapar,52). If for some reason the tiger has to leave its dinner before it is done eating it will cover the body with twigs and leaves before leaving (Morris,88). Tigers need to eat about 40 pounds of meat a day and will commonly cover up to 12 miles every night in search of their prey (McClung,150). Tigers usually eat deer, wild pigs, wild cattle, young rhinos, baby elephants, domestic animals at near by farms, and occasionally leopards (Morris,88). Once in a while a tiger might eat a human but this is much less common than you would think, because tigers are very shy of human beings and try to stay away from them (Morris,88).
Once tigers have reached three or fours years old they are old enough to breed. Tigers breed every two to three years and the female is the one that goes looking for a mate (McClung,212). The females will go around leaving their scents on bushes or rocks and wait for interested males to come. When the cubs are born, however, the male and female tigers go their separate ways and the female is left with the responsibility of raising the cubs. The average time that tigers are pregnant is usually about 108 days before the cubs are born (www.noahsays.com). The female usually has litters of about three to four cubs in a special den that she has chosen where she feels the cubs will be safe. The cubs are blind at first and weigh about 2.5 pounds and they rely on their mother for everything (www.noahsays.com). The hardest thing for the mother to do is to keep the cubs safe as she goes off hunting. When the cubs are small she'll probably hide them in a cave or in-between small crevices in the rocks where they cannot be seen. When the cubs get bigger then the mother usually hides them in clumps of long grass until she return from hunting (Cavendish,697). Large snakes such as pythons may sneak up on the cubs and crush them to death and then swallow them. Leopards, wild dogs, and hyenas are also on the prowl so the mother has to hurry back as soon as possible (Tharpar,199). Many of the cubs do become prey before they are old enough to protect themselves and only about two cubs will get a chance to grow into fully grown tigers (Morris,92). The cubs drink their mothers milk until they are five to six weeks old and when they get a little bigger the mother usually vomits up some of her food to feed to her cubs. It is very important to keep the cubs fur clean so the mother spends a lot of time doing this to keep them healthy. The mother also has to spend a great deal of time grooming herself to make sure that any cuts that she got from hunting are cleaned so she doesn't get sick and possibly die (DuTemple,24). After all if she gets sick then she cannot hunt and then her and her cubs will quickly starve to death. Tigers are not like most of the cat species and they love water. Especially on hot days they like to lay in the cool waters and relax (Thapar,200). When the cubs are old enough the mother brings them to a water hole on a hot day to cool off and play in the water (Thapar,200).
When the cubs are half grown, they are usually large enough to go hunting with their mothers. However they are still too young to hunt but they watch eagerly from nearby cover as their mother stalks and attacks her prey. Then when she brings back the kill, they rush out to join her. The mother will then open up the skin of the animal and let her cubs eat before she begins to eat. The cubs learn hunting techniques by watching their mother and then practice these techniques with each other while they play. While the mother is stalking the prey her young can keep an eye on her by watching the white circles outlined in black on the back of her ears. These markings are also used when two tigers fight; after the fight one tiger will turn around and let the other tiger see the marking and this is a sign of victory (Morris,92).
The final stage of rearing the young comes when they are about two years old. At this time the mother will just get up and walk away from her cubs and she wont look back or never return. For the first time the young animals will have to fend for themselves and make their own kills if they want to survive in the jungle (Morris,92).
There has been a drastic reduction in the range of the tiger during the 20th century, mainly because of the intense hunting pressure from humans. At one time the tiger was found in Southeast India, Russia, China, and Southeast Asia, but at least three out of eight subspecies of tigers have become extinct in recent years (www.noahsays.com).
The Indian government has made an attempt to conserve remaining tigers. Project Tiger was established in the early 1980's, using 830 square kilometers of the Bandipur Forest in southern India for protection of tigers. Constantly handicapped by lack of funds, the project has little to show for its efforts. Park officials say Bandipur has 70 tigers now, but many conservationists think the total is less (www.noahsays.com).
Some of the tigers' difficulties have resulted from loss of natural habitat, and further loss of their territories will lead to an even bigger drop in their numbers. The major threat to the tiger population is hunters. Poachers want tiger parts to sell for traditional medicinal substances used in some cultures, and also have found a good market for their skins. Laws to help tigers exist, but they are difficult to enforce when funds aren't available to pay for adequate security forces (www.tigertail.com). There are many organizations to donate money to, but now all we need is to get everyone interested in helping this beautiful species that is greatly decreasing.
Burn, David. The Animal World. Hong Kong: Octopus Books. 1980.
Cavendish, Marshall. Wildlife of the World. New York: Cavendish Corporation. 1994.
DuTemple, Lesley. Tigers. New York: Lerner Publishing. 1996.
McClung, Robert. Last of the Wild. Connecticut: Linnet Books. 1997.
Morris, Desmond. The World of Animals. New York: Penguin Group. 1993.
Thapar, Valmik. Land of the Tiger. New York: Worldwide Publishing. 1997.
Word Count: 1559