The tiger is one of the most majestic beasts to walk on land. It holds a special place in our hearts as it's also the national animal of our country. Less than a hundred years ago there were over 1,00,000 tigers roaming the forests of Asia. However, according to the World Wildlife Federation data, there are only 3,890 tigers left in the wild today. The sad fact is human beings are the main cause of tiger deaths all over the world. Poaching, habitat infringement, climate change and retaliatory killings are responsible for making the tiger an endangered species. In the last 80 years alone three subspecies of tigers - the Javan, Bali and Caspian - have become extinct. The legendary Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once remarked, “When a man wants to murder a tiger, he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder a man, he calls it ferocity.”
To put a stop to the killing and poaching of tigers, the panel at the St Petersburg Tiger Summit of 2010 declared 29 July as International Tiger Day. This day is celebrated every year to bring attention to the fact that this majestic animal is on the verge of extinction.
Here are some interesting facts about our national animal that you can share with your child:
- The tiger is the largest wild cat in the world, even bigger than the lion. Adult Siberian tigers can grow up to 3.3m long and weigh 363kg.
- Tigers love to swim and enjoy cooling off in ponds or rivers, especially in summer. Tigers also eat the fish they catch while swimming.
- Tigers are really loud. When they roar, you can hear it from up to 3km away. However, tigers rarely roar at other animals. They do so to communicate with other tigers, who may be far away.
- Every single tiger is unique. Just like each human being’s finger print is unique, the stripes on each tiger are also different from that of other tigers.
- There are six different subspecies of tigers in the world. They are classified as Bengal, Sumatran, Siberian, Malayan, Indochinese and South China tigers. Each subspecies is of a different size.
- Tigers live up to 15 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity. They have the longest lifespan in the family of big cats.
- Tigers have powerful legs. They can leap up to 6m in length and jump up to 5m in height.
- Tigers are fast runners. They can run at speeds up to 65 km/hour. It is no wonder that the name tiger comes from the Greek word tigris, which means ‘an arrow’.
- Tigers have eyes with round pupils, just like humans. This sets them apart from other domestic cats. This is because tigers do most of their hunting during the day while domestic cats are mostly nocturnal.
- Tigers can mate with other big cats. When a male lion mates with a female tiger, their offspring is called a 'liger' and when a male tiger mates with a female lion, their offspring is called a 'tiglon'.
- The tiger is a solitary hunter. Unlike the lion, he hunts alone. Because of this, only one in ten tiger hunts are successful.
- Female tigers are great mothers. After a gestation period of three months, they give birth to two or three blind and helpless cubs. The mother is the sole provider for them and has to ensure that she catches enough prey to not only feed herself but her children as well.
- Some tigers are white, instead of orange. White tigers are not a separate subspecies of tigers. Instead, they have a certain gene which makes their fur white in colour and their eyes blue.
- Tigers are essential to maintaining an environmental balance. As they are on top of most food chains, they keep the populations of most prey species such as deer and wild boar under control. This ensures that the vegetation in forests remains protected. So, when we harm tigers, we harm the environment.
- Tigers have antiseptic saliva. When a tiger licks its wounds, it doesn't just clean the area but disinfects it too.
Educate your child about this majestic beast and tell her why it’s important that it should be protected. Awareness is the key to protecting our environment and the different habitats. As parents, it's our responsibility to make our children conscious about the environment and the beautiful creatures that inhabit Mother Earth.
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