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Kaziranga Tigers

Kaziranga National Park

Introduction
Kaziranga National Park has the highest density and the third highest population of tigers in the country. The tiger density in Kaziranga is 12.72 per 100 square km, followed by the Jim Corbett National Park (11) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (10.28) in Karnataka. The park, which was declared a tiger reserve in 2007, has an area of 860 square km. Kaziranga covers over 1,000 square kilometers. Their major preys there are hog deer, sambar, swamp deer, Asiatic wild buffalo and wild pigs. Like human fingerprints, tigers have different stripe patterns. Kaziranga's alluvial grassland provides optimal habitats for tigers. One of the key reason for high tiger density in Kaziranga is abundance of prey animals like hog deer, sambar, swamp deer, wild boar, hog badger, porcupine, wild buffalo, rhino and elephant etc. The tigers found in Kaziranga National Park are mostly Royal Bengal Indian Tigers. The Kaziranga National Park is divided into 4 zones namely - Central or Kaziranga range, the Western or Bagori range, the eastern of Agaratoli range and the Burapahar range according to which the Tigers are divided and kept in this national park.

Morphology & Anatomy
The tiger has a body design that allows it to move along gracefully. They are also extremely fast when it comes to hunting their prey and getting themselves out of the way of danger. A full grown tiger can be up to 11 feet in length and weight as much as 670 pounds. They have a very muscular build too which helps them to take down prey that is many types heavier than they are. The females are generally smaller than the males for all of the different species of tigers. The one most distinctive and separate feature that a tiger has is its stripes on the body. These stripes are in the form of skin coat. The coat is an orangish color with stripes of black and white found on it. If you study the stripes of tigers you will quickly realize that each one has its own distinct pattern. This is how researchers are able to identify them during observation in a natural habitat setting. Their coat is similar to the way our own fingerprints make each one of use unique. Not all tigers are orange in color which is also interesting to learn about. For example the white tigers that feature black stripes and blue eyes certainly do get the attention of people. This is due to a mutation in the coloring and it rarely occurs in the wild. However, due to the popularity of them they are intentionally bred in zoos all over the world. In addition, very powerful jaws with razor sharp teeth are found in the mouths of these big cats. There are about 30 teeth found in the mouth of a tiger. As a tiger gets older, its teeth can wear out. That is when a tiger will have a hard time living in the wild and may even starve to death. The claws of a tiger are extremely sharp. They have five claws on each foot and the first one never touches the ground. They can often be seen in the wild scratching their claws against trees. They have a sheath that covers their claws so that they donít get exposed and worn out when they donít need to use them. Both the legs and the shoulder regions of tigers are extremely muscular and powerful. This gives them the ability to control various types of prey instantly. They also have paws that are very wide which helps them to climb and to grasp things. The paws of the males are generally much larger than those of the females. The hind legs are also longer then the front ones which also help with the ability to jump so well. All these factors contributes in ruling the jungle.

Habitat & Behavior
Tiger, as we know, is a wild animal and is naturally manifested by Mother Nature to live in Jungles, Dense Forests, Grasslands populated with omnivores etc. The tiger is native to Asia from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Siberia in the north and Indonesia and even in Borneo and the Philippines in the south. Tigers used to had a huge habitat because they are able to adapt to different types of environments which range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. However as it can be seen on the map, their habitat has been reduced dramatically. Over here in Kaziranga, The native is the Bengal Tiger which is also called as Royal Bengal Tiger of India. Tigers will look for three things in abundance when looking for habitat. These are Ė Cover, Water and Prey. Tigers are extremely territorial though so they will fight other animals and other tigers that invade their space. This problem has become more of an issue due to the natural environment for tigers being destroyed at an alarming rate, as a male tiger may have a territory of up to 60 to 100 square kilometers, while females up to 20 square kilometers, as this numbers change according with the habitat and subspecies. As a result they have to venture into new territories to be able to find adequate amounts of food. Tigers tend to live on their own, depending on themselves for survival. They will only be seen with other tigers when they are looking for a mate or in the case of females when they are taking care of their offspring. The males have more personal territory than females when it comes to their natural habitat. It is natural for the females to have territories that overlap that of males. This is more acceptable than if another male tries to invade that same type of space. In order for any type of habitat to be able to successfully offer what a tiger needs to survive, there are a few things that must be in place. The area must offer some type of covering that allows the tigers to blend into the surroundings quite well. They also need to have plenty of water to access. The last thing they need is plenty of prey to choose from. The territories that tigers call home are marked by them. They spray urine and anal glands secretions to threes that allow them to give off very strong smells. This gives the indication to other tigers that they are invading the space of another. The females though may be drawn to the scent of the males in the area though which is how they often find each other for mating purposes. Tiger travel movements though may get wider and wider though as their natural habitat is destroyed and the environment offers less prey for them to live on. It is also common for tigers to move along daily in their natural territory as well. This means they may not rest in the same area for more than a couple of days. Females are more likely to remain closer to their primary location than males. The territories that tigers call home are marked by them. They have scent glands that allow them to give off very strong smells. This gives the indication to other tigers that they are invading the space of another. The females though may be drawn to the scent of the males in the area though which is how they often find each other for mating purposes. Males have larger territories than females. An adult male's territory will usually overlap several females' territories. The larger area contains more than enough food, water and shelter resources, but is larger to accommodate more females' territories. Therefore, females are the most coveted resource for males. Aggression amongst adult male tigers can be influenced by the number of tigers in a given area (density) and whether there is a social disruption in which males are competing to take control of a territory. The intensity of aggression increased when there are high tiger densities for a given area because there is more competition of resources and mating opportunities. Resident male territory-holders may be challenged by other young males for possession of the territory or the young males may challenge each for ownership if the resident male has vacated or dies. The strongest male will take possession of the territory. These times of social disruption may also cause aggression between females. Tigresses' territories are smaller than that of males but focus on vital resources required for rearing young. Tigresses usually occupy territories adjacent to or take over parts of their mother's territory.

Feeding
As we know that Tigers are carnivores mammal which means that they are flesh eaters. Same is the feeding nature of Kaziranga tigers. They tend to find both small and large prey to feed on in the wild. What they will consume generally depends on the area where they live as different types of animals will be readily available. They have no problem taking down animals must larger than themselves including buffalo and bears. To conserve energy for the hunt and to help ensure the kill, they will get very close to their prey before pouncing in it. They are very good at moving quietly through the area around where their prey is found. Their stripes help to camouflage them so they arenít seen until it is too late. They also find the young, the weak, or the old in a group of animals so that there is very little chance that these animals with outrun them. Tigers have to be very careful with their prey though as a swift kick from some of them can severely injure or even kill them. For example tigers often avoids charging on baby elephants and rhino calves as they are in company of their physically strong parents who pose great challenges to tigers. They certainly donít want to end up getting harmed when they are trying to find food. Kaziranga tigers eat a variety of prey ranging in size from termites to elephant calves. However, an integral component of their diet is a large-bodied prey weighing about 20 kg (45 lb) or larger such as moose, Spotted Deer, Swamp Deer, Wild Boars, Wild Water Buffaloes, Indian Muntjac etc. Occasionally they may consume tapirs, elephant calves, Rhinoceros calves, village cattle etc. Tigers mainly rely on their sense of sight and hearing rather than on smell when hunting prey. They cautiously stalk their prey from the rear in attempt to get as close as possible to their unsuspecting prey. Then they attempt to take down their prey with a powerful bite to the neck and/ or throat. Tigers may consume up to 40 kg (88 pounds) of meat at one time. It is estimated that every tiger consumes about 50 deer-sized animals each year, about one per week

Territorial Behavior & Herd
The effort to understand, realize and decode the social structural phenomenon of Bengal Tigers in Kaziranga is a difficult process and not easy at all to comprehend. Since tigers are loners, mainly living an isolated existence it is hard to really view their social structure on a regular basis. It can change during various periods of their life. The females tend to be more tolerant of each other and they live in smaller territorial ranges than the males. It is very common for the females to overlap the areas of the males in many areas. There is research to indicate tigers are able to recognize each other. They may be willing to share prey they have killed with other males that are related, females that have had their cubs, and even those that have been in the area before and they recognize the scent of. This doesnít always happen though. What seems to be interesting is the eating habits of these wild cats. For example males that do share their meals with females and with cubs will allow them to feed first or at the same time. With most types of cats including lions the males eat first until they get their fill then what is left can be shared by those remaining as they go down the social hierarchy. Tigers can be social with each other though depending on what is going on. Some of the vocal sounds they offer indicate that they arenít giving a warm welcome. They may hiss, meow, or growl to get others to get out of their territory. Other types of sounds which they may produce is they will purr and make low growling sounds to indicate interest and to draw others to them, especially for mating purposes. The most social activities take place when a mother has her cubs. She may have from 1 to 6 of them depending on the type of tiger. There is generally a dominant cub that emerges early on as well. It is typically a male but not always. This cub will set the pace for playing, sleeping, and engaging in various other types of activities. Many researchers agree that the area of the social structure for tigers is one that does need to be explored further.

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