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The Bengal Tiger

The Bengal Tiger, Panthera tigris tigris, sometimes called the Royal Bengal Tiger, is the national animal of India.  Many people tend to think of it as an Indian animal, but it is also found in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.  The Bengal Tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh.

The Siberian Tiger is traditionally considered to be the biggest subspecies of Tiger, but some studies suggest that the Bengal Tiger is as big or even slightly bigger.


Apart from Tigers of the usual colouring, some Bengal Tigers have a lot more white.  These are referred to as White Tigers.  These are often on display in zoos and parks.  This characteristic is being bred for in some of these parks.

There have been many reports of black Tigers.  In some cases these were black Leopards.  However, there seems little doubt that partially black tigers do exist.  The existence of totally black Tigers is much more doubtful.


The UICN Red List for 2008 lists the status of the Bengal Tiger as endangered, with probably less than 2500 living in the wild.  This is actually more than the likely number of any of the other subspecies.


The ancestors of the Bengal Tiger arrived in its present range about 12,000 years ago.  The stem subspecies was probably the South China Tiger.


They are carnivores, like cats in general.  They will kill and eat almost any animal they can catch and kill. This means most of the animals of India and the other places it lives.

Indian Elephants are rather large for Tigers to tackle, but they do eat some young ones.

Catching an Elephant

This general description is based on Lieutenant Colonel William’s Book, Elephant Bill.  He obviously had not actually witnessed an attack like this, but had put together the scenario from his knowledge of Elephants and Tigers, including treating Elephants after a Tiger attack.

When the Pregnant Elephant is close to giving birth, she goes into the jungle with another female Elephant, which is sometimes referred to as an Auntie.

If a Tiger wants to eat the baby, he will charge the mother and try to drive her off.  The Auntie now has to fight off the Tiger by herself, knowing that the mother will be back very soon.  It is probable that the Auntie usually succeeds and the Tiger will go off to find smaller prey.

Another animal generally too big for a Tiger to tackle is the Rhinoceros.  Tigers did occasionally eat baby Rhinos.  Unfortunately, Rhinos are practically extinct in the Tigers range.

Man Eating

In most of its range, the Bengal Tiger rarely eats Humans, but in one area, the Sundarbans, this habit is a serious problem.

The Sundarbans

Most Tiger habitats are dry land.  Tigers are good swimmers, and the Sumatran Tiger is especially adept at this. However, there is one important Bengal Tiger Habitat that has large amounts of water.  It is designated as a wetland of international importance.

The Sundarbans is an area of mangrove swamps by the mouths of the Rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra.  Behind the Mangrove area are brackish water swamps.


The Mangrove area of the Sundarbans about 20,000 square kilometres is probably the largest single mangrove area in the world,

The mangrove area is dominated by the Sundari (Heritiera fomes) trees, and in terms of large plants, it has less variety than most plant communities, but it is an extremely productive area and has a very large number of different species of animal.

Tigers of the Sundarbans

Tigers are at the top of the food chain, and will eat any animal living in the area, either on land or in the water.  There are probably about 500 Tigers in the area, making it one of the most important populations of Tigers anywhere in the world.

In this area, the Bengal Tiger seems to regard Humans as a normal part of its prey.  The Tigers are protected animals here and in the rest of India and Bangladesh, but a range of measures have been put into place to stop man eating; they have greatly reduced the problem.


Tigers are protected animals, but are killed illegally. The market for tiger products is not generally India, but China.

The Governments of India and Bangladesh have tried to stop the poaching, but in the area of the Sundarbans, their efforts are greatly aided by the man eating habits of the Tigers.

Rising Sea Levels

The rise in sea level of about 20 centimetres (8 inches) in the last 100 years has combined with the subsidence of the area to put some pressure on this habitat.  If the sea level continues to rise, the Sundarbans is under threat.

Human Threat

A more immediate threat to this habitat is Human activity.  People have been clearing it so they have somewhere to live.  The Human population density of the area is enormous.

Other Animals of the Sundarbans

Apart from the Tigers, there are around 30,000 spotted deer, and several other types of deer like the Barking Deer.  Crocodiles of two species and one gavial share the water with Ganges Dolphins and Sharks together with huge numbers of different types of fish.

Macaques live in the trees with Langurs and a huge variety of birds.

Other Cats

Leopards, jungle cats, fishing cats and leopard cats also live in the area.