The Tiger—Solitary Hunter of the Night
A CREATURE of outstanding beauty and power, a masterpiece of dynamic sculpture—that description fits the tiger. Its black stripes add distinction to a coat varying in color from a yellowish brown to an orange red. These dark stripes also serve as excellent camouflage, as they blend nicely with tall grass or the light and shadows of forests or jungles. Contrasting with the animal’s overall coloration are the whitish parts—the belly, throat, inside of the legs and patches on the head.
The tiger is so closely related to the lion that the two animals have been successfully mated in zoos. The offspring of a tiger and a lioness is known as a tiglon or tigon. A liger is the offspring of a lion and a tigress.
Including the tail, an adult male tiger may measure some nine feet (3 meters) in length and weigh between 400 and 500 pounds (180 and 225 kilograms). The female is about a foot or so shorter and weighs about a hundred pounds (45 kilograms) less. Besides size, the full-grown male can be distinguished from the female by a ruff of long hair on the cheeks.
Excellent swimmers, tigers enjoy taking to the water on hot days. Under certain circumstances, a tiger may swim quite a distance from one island to another in search of prey.
The strength of tigers is simply amazing. They have been known to drag, for hundreds of feet, animal carcasses weighing 500 pounds (225 kilograms) or more. Also, this creature’s ability to jump is astounding. In one leap, a tiger may cover a distance of fifteen feet (nearly 5 meters). One tiger reportedly jumped a seven-foot (two-meter) barrier and seized a man. Then, with the victim in its mouth, the animal passed back over the stockade without any difficulty.
Tigers usually hunt alone at night. The animal may tackle wild bulls, wild pigs, deer, antelope and at times even elephant calves. But it does not restrict itself to larger prey. The tiger’s diet may also include monkeys, fish, frogs, tortoises and locusts.
The animal’s taste for porcupines at times results in serious injury. Porcupine quills in the paws or lower limbs may make it impossible for a tiger to bring down and kill larger prey. When quills penetrate its jaws, a tiger is doomed to starvation.
To satisfy their need for food, tigers must do considerable hunting. Even caged animals in zoos consume large amounts of meat. Though merely pacing back and forth in its cage, a tiger needs some ten pounds (4.5 kilograms) of meat a day.
Though lone hunters, tigers are not unfriendly toward their own kind. Two of them may rub heads together in greeting and then continue on their own separate ways.
With rare exceptions, tigers avoid man. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia says: “Tigers have a respect and fear for man which is difficult to explain. Even if harassed by curious humans or sportsmen a tiger will not normally react until its patience is well-nigh exhausted. Normally a man can walk in a tiger’s habitat without fear or hindrance.”—Vol. 18, p. 2416.
It is of interest to note that the tiger’s usual fear of man harmonizes with what the Bible states at Genesis 9:2: “A fear of you and a terror of you will continue upon every living creature.” So, then, fear and respect for man is part of the very nature of wild animals, including tigers.
Some tigers, of course, do become man-killers. But there is evidence that humans themselves are largely to blame. A taxidermist who examined the skulls of some fifty man-killers discovered that forty of them had bullet wounds. Also, depletion of the tiger’s normal prey through man’s hunting or other activities may cause the animal to prey on man and his domestic animals. A tiger that starts preying on humans may pose a very serious threat. One animal is known to have killed 127 people; another brought down 436 persons.
During the mating season, male and female are together for a comparatively short period—less than two weeks, according to some naturalists. After a gestation period of a little more than three months, between three and four cubs are born. They are blind and quite small, weighing only between two and three pounds (one and one and a half kilograms). Two weeks after birth, their eyes open.
By the time the cubs are two years of age they are usually left on their own. Meanwhile the mother has taught them how to hunt. For this purpose, she may cripple a game animal and then let her cubs kill it. The survival rate for the cubs, however, is not the best. Half of them may not live beyond their first year.
An Endangered Animal
In its place, unmolested by man, the tiger plays a vital role in preserving the present-day balance of creature life. Sadly, though, this beautiful animal’s existence is threatened. Man has reduced the tiger’s normal prey and has made inroads on its natural habitat. Reportedly, six of the eight varieties of tigers are heading in the direction of extinction.
Naturalists are rightly concerned. They do not want to see this masterpiece of dynamic sculpture destroyed from its native habitat. Likewise, persons who appreciate God’s creative works do not want to see the tiger or any animal eradicated from the face of the earth.