Umbrella Species

Now to the part – Why Tigers??? Whats the deal with tiger conservation and all that hungama????

 

Simple… because it is an umbrella species. What is an umbrella species?? – the next question! There are many species known and identified, man being one of the most abundant! And to estimate the population of the lesser abundant is a tough task. Therefore, we, the “intelligent” species, devised a plan to identify one specie and conserve dependant species in flora and fauna.

 

Roughly defined: “A wide-ranging species whose requirements include those of many other species”

Egs from other than the tiger:

 

# Northern spotted owls and old growth forest : ex. Molluscs and salamanders are within the protective boundaries of the northern spotted owl.

# Bay checkerspot butterfly and grasslands

  mostly sourced form wikipedia

More to come later.

Numbers!!!

Total tiger population in India is accessed to be around 1411, with a lower limit of 1165 and an upper limit of 1657!😦 with a majority in Madhya Pradesh(thanks to its reserves, there are around 300 of them there), followed by Karnataka(290).

The major densities of the Tiger population is in around Central India and the Western Ghats.

All data is sourced from “Status of Tigers, Co-Predators and Prey in India”, A Wildlife Institute of India venture and, National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Cruelty…Some images may be graphic.. viewer discretion is advised.

Now the sad part..

Lets imagine if you can go through this list and still keep a smile when u see the big cat the next time in a cage.

>beaten up by a base ball bat,

>Mauled upon by other tigers

>caged in a dog cage

>tied up by the limbs

>teeth pulled out

>Malnourished.. bones break… teeth fall out.. loss of sight
>chained so bad…. rip off the skin along with the chain to save the tiger from the harness.

> in queue for electrocution for fur trade

>If u have bad cat karma.. your throat may be slit and you can feel the blood flowing out of your body all for ur skin and ur bones … and you teeth.. even ur organs..

>Crippled limbs due to abuse.

> enclosed in tiny enclosures, you couldn stand.. eventually you cant move, and you are underweight that even a kid can carry u with one arm.

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White tigers.

White tigers are individual specimens of the ordinary tiger (Panthera tigris) with a genetic condition that nearly eliminates pigment in the normally orange fur although they still have dark stripes. This occurs when a tiger inherits two copies of the recessive gene for the paler coloration: pink nose, grey-mottled skin, ice-blue eyes, and white to cream-coloured fur with black, grey, or chocolate-coloured stripes. (Another genetic condition also makes the stripes of the tiger very pale; white tigers of this type are called snow-white.) Source:Wikipedia. Photograph: Author’s own.

Peekaboo

These white tigers when compared to the orange ones, are much bigger in size, both at birth and at full-grown stage. Experts suggest that the purpose of the gene would be to maintain size of the species, if need be. Those who studied genetics or are fascinated by the subject may be interested in this.

 

\

W

R

W

WW

RW

R

WR

RR

Eye of the tiger

 

Where R is for the orange tiger and W for the whites. The funda is, if the tigers carrying the recessive gene ”W” breed, then there is a 100% chance of a white tiger cub, and if a carrier breeds with an orange tiger, there are chances of passing on this gene or if the orange parent was carrier, it would increase its chance of being a white tiger.

 

Now that the funda is over with, the facts.

 

 

The Baap of all White tigers of Rewa, was Mohan. He was discovered as a cub, in 1951 in Bandhavgarh,(this place has the highest recorded concentration of tigers in India). The Maharaja captured it and happily kept it as an n exotic pet. Mohan was bred to normal tigress and their progeny were all normal. This of course must have been frustrating to the Humans. Therefore, the solution was to inbreed, or in human terms, incest, since all of the progeny would be carriers of the recessive gene. As a result, the first white tiger cubs were born in captivity. And it is these li’l cubs that grew on and reproduced and filled all of the zoos worldwide. That is the story of Mohan. And this clan of them is called as the Rewa strain. There is a similar strain, again from orange father –daughter pair which is called the Orissa strain.

 

The last know wild white tiger was shot dead in 1958 and hence the only way to keep the demand supply chain on was to inbreed. When we say demand supply, it is the perception of white tigers being cute and more lovable than the orange ones. And to cash on this very notion, and get people to pay money to see these little cuddly white tiger cubs, private zoo, exotic animal enclosure etc inbreed their white tigers. It may be fine you think. But what they are trying to do is to alter, severely, the gene pool of the species. It is accepted that marrying with ones own family is not good for the offspring, and these are animals inbred for decades. These eventually leads to a crooked spine, shortened limbs, and crossed eyes, and they may or may not be reproductive.

 

The tiger cubs are incredibly cute!! And anyone would want to play around with them and take a photo and all that, especially if they are the white tigers. So what the cat shelters do is to starve the cubs so the cubs remain light and “pettable”. And then when the cubs get bigger, they may not be able to stand up on their limbs, due to under nourishment. Eventually discarded because they become a liability. As a cub grows older, and attains “discardability”, the need for a new cub arises. This is how the cycle of abuse goes on. And because of the genes associated, not cubs can be expected to be white, cos not all those who breed for genetics are Gregor Mendel. 😦

 

 

 

Tiger Today….. Tmrw??????

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With all the hype about the “Save the Tiger” campaign, and the PM acknowledging the need for it, what better than the Tiger to start off the blog with🙂 Before I start out to writing, let me warn you forehand, that my exposure to four legged animals is merely through zoo, for want of financial resources, and if I really did venture out into the national parks, I haven’t been blessed with an audience with any of them. Therefore if you feel the incessant need to correct my facts, please do; if you feel the need to shut me up, well go find another blog, all of whatever is written here will be only in my humble opinion!!! 

Hmmmm… so the Tiger…  The tiger, or Panthera tigris, belongs to the cat family, Felines as we would call them or Felidae (they belong to the family of Felidae and are classified under the mammals) Now that you know this basic stuff, here’s more. These cats are the biggest of them all cats. It is mostly on the top of ever ecological pyramid in the wild, and preys on deer, and other small animals.  

Like humans, the tigers come in different packages, what we biology students call subspecies. There were 9 subspecies. Commonly known as the Bengal tiger, the Malayan tiger, the south china tiger, the Sumatran tiger, the Siberian tiger, the Indo-Chinese tiger and the extinct ones – the Javan tiger, the Balinese tiger, the Caspian tiger. 

More about the extinct tigers… 

The Balinese Tiger, as the name suggests was found in Bali, and was, sadly hunted down to extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) cites that the tiger if not extinct by the 1930s would have been after world war 2 or the 1950’s. Major causes being human induced. 

The Javan Tiger, last sighted in 1976. Again we played an important role in shooing away this cat from the face of this planet probably around the 1980’s.

 The Caspian Tiger, widespread across southwest Asia. You can imagine what happened here. Desert region habitat, human intervention, want of resource, humans hunting tiger, taking over habitat and Poof! Tiger Gone!!! circa 1970. 

Now about the tigers that are living… if you think you can do without reading all this, please do go ahead, but it wouldn’t make sense to relate to something you don’t know much about. 

The Malayan Tiger, the little baby in the lot. It was in 2004, that the world recognized this cat as another subspecies of the tiger. There are about only approx. 600 of them left. The Malaysian government recognizes this cat as a national icon, and hence we hope that it also makes an effect to conserve the species.  

The South China Tiger is one of the most endangered species of the world (one of the top ten on the list, infact). Interestingly, wikipedia states, that there was no sighting from 1983 to 2007, and in 2007, a farmer spotted one and handed photographs (Thankfully, not tiger parts!!!) to officials thereby passing a law to ban killing of tigers. Currently, there are 59of them, in zoos. 

The Sumatran Tiger, the smallest of the tigers. Records indicate that there are about 400-500 of them living in the national parks of the Sumatran islands. Interestingly, genetic study shows unique markers and this could imply that it may develop into a separate species. Conservation for this purpose is emphasized. Major threats as in any case, or rather Major Threat, would be us and our actions. 

The Siberian Tiger critically endangered with around 250 living, mostly in national parks. The largest of them all tigers, from the cold region, thick fur, now you know who, why and what poses a threat to them.

 indochinese.jpgThe Indo-Chinese Tiger, listed population figures are over a 1000, and few hundreds in the wild. A much smaller cat than the Bengal tiger, it would be great to see it alive instead of someone’s coat or in an acknowledgement note on a Chinese medicine box.

 bengal-tigerpanthera_tigris.jpgThe Bengal Tiger, as of 2005, a worldwide population of 200 and a bulk population of approx, 3000 India-Bangladesh. Project Tiger, something that India started to conserve it has something rather funny in its history. Sariska, a Tiger reserve as of 1978 near Alwar,Rajasthan; tourists complained of not spotting tigers, no matter what they do! circa 2004. No pug marks, no scratches on trees, just no presence of tigers!!! And the Rajasthan government shouts out, that all the tigers had gone out of the reserve on a picnic! Finally Indian Express shouts back, There are no tigers left there. Finally Project Tiger Directorate also declares that there are no tigers left in Sariska anymore circa 2005. 

The most recent conservation efforts are from the Save the Tiger campaign, NDTV. It got a lot of media attention and could move some boulders on the way to being heard.  Now with the Prime minister as the head of the Wildlife Board, it seems like an easy task – not really. In a span of two years, the numbers have come down drastically to just 1411. The PM of course, puts away money to the purpose (around 650 crore) and the responsibility will be that of the Chief Ministers.  Will all this prove beneficial to the wild cat? we will have to wait and watch till the next census happens towards the end of this year. Next post on White Tigers!!!!🙂 

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