Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
Tigers in the Wild:Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal
Most Bengal tigers live in India, and some range through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Their esimated population is approximately 3,250-4,700 tigers, with roughly 333 in captivity, mostly in zoos in India. White tigers are basicaly a color variant of the Bengal tiger and are rarely found in the wild.
The Bengal tiger is found mainly throughout India, with smaller populations in southern Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and western Myanmar.The Cat Specialist Group IUCN reported an approximate total of 3,250 to 4,700 Bengal tigers throughout the range in 1995. For several decades, the status of wild tigers in India has been estimated from the individual identification of footprints (or pug marks), this method has been challenged for the inaccuracy and manipulation of humans. The first total Indian census in 1971 produced a baseline figure of about 1,800 tigers. The Tiger Project or 'Project Tiger' and Wildlife Institute of India, officials reported in more or less accurate censuses that tiger numbers increased to 4,334 in 1989. These estimates were disputed by Indian biologists, who strongly suggested the number is far lower.
The Cat Specialist Group reported 2,750 to 3,750 Bengal tigers in India in 1994. These tigers are distributed among 66 protected areas, of which more than 20 fall under the umbrella of Project Tiger, a program based on total protection of tigers and conservation of selected habitats as reserves managed primarily for tigers. Another 150-250 tigers live in three protected areas in Nepal, 50-240 tigers are in four protected areas in Bhutan, about 300-460 tigers live in three protected areas in Bangladesh, and an unknown number of tigers remain in Myanmar. Although the wild Bengal tiger populations are considered more secure in India than other tiger subspecies found elsewhere in Asia, there exists the potential for rapid demise of wild populations through recently increased levels of poaching and poisoning.
Indian zoos have bred tigers since 1880, the first time being at the Alipore Zoo in Calcutta. In the last two decades they have bred so successfully that there are now too many. Unfortunately other subspecies of tigers brought by dealers from outside India over the years have been mixed with Indian tigers, so that many zoo tigers are of questionable lineage and therefore not appropriate for conservation purposes. The 1994 International Tiger Studbook lists the current global captive population of Bengal tigers at 333 tigers; 289 have the typical orange coloration of most free-ranging tigers, the remaining 44 are the white color morph, a rarely observed form in the free-ranging population. All of the studbook-registered captive population is maintained in Indian zoos, except for one female Bengal tiger in North America. Completion of the Indian Bengal Tiger Studbook is a necessary prerequisite to establishing a captive management program for tigers in India.