The Tiger

The majestic tiger was once found in large numbers all over the subcontinent. It was feared, misunderstood, admired, and even worshiped as the vehicle of goddess Durga. In our own times, when man has all but wiped out this wonderful animal, few of us know what a tiger is like up close...

At a time when tigers were hunted in the name of sport, the Maharaja of Dholpur ordered a beat. Some two hundred men formed a wide semicircle, beating drums and canisters in order to flush out the tiger hiding in the undergrowth and drive him towards the hunters waiting in a vehicle at the opposite end. But the tiger in question had other ideas. Instead of running towards the vehicle, he whipped around and tore through the line of beaters.
In doing so, its right fore paw landed on the head of one of the beaters. There was a sickening sound of bones being crushed and the luckless man\'s head and neck simply disappeared within the thoracic cavity.
The tiger has phenomenal strength but doesn\'t use strength alone to knock down its prey. Essentially a loner, he believes in stealth and ambush. Thus he approaches his prey up-wind, so his smell won\'t give him away. And he patiently stalks his prey, advancing very, very slowly, ears laid back, legs drawn under him, belly to the ground, waiting and watching for the right moment. In the process the tiger takes advantage of every scrap of cover that the surrounding bushes and creepers can afford. Finally, rising to a crouching position, muscles superbly coordinated and taut with a purpose, he makes a lightning charge. A tiger most often attacks its prey from behind. Laying his chest against the back of the animal, the tiger grabs the neck with his canines. As a rule, the sheer weight of the tiger is enough to snap the backbone of the victim. But should follow-up action be necessary, it includes driving the claws into the trachea and hanging on till the animal is choked to death. The tiger makes good use of its formidable, retractable claws in capturing and holding on to its prey. It looks after those claws too, by sharpening them on tree trunks.
Like a hunter anywhere, the tiger is merciless, showing no quarter to his victims. But then, unlike man, he does not kill for sport. He kills to survive. A tigress kills for herself and to sustain her liter. If lives are lost and blood is shed on the forest floor, it is a part of nature\'s plan. Should tigers suddenly have a change of heart and turn vegetarian, their prey species would multiply without let or hindrance, upsetting the balance of nature. At the same time, since a tiger kills only to satisfy a basic biological need, there is no danger of tigers wiping out a particular prey species.

But a bit more about the tiger\'s eating habits, more particularly, his table manners. Having made a kill, he generally drags it to the shade of a bush where he can eat in peace. He starts feeding from the rump and hind legs and is a clean feeder. Opening the stomach cavity with one swift movement of its claws, almost surgical in precision, he removes the stomach and intestines and is known to carry the lot some distance away and dump it. If the kill is large enough, a tiger may feed on it for 4 - 5 days. In the process he despatches all the flesh, small bones, skin and hair. The hair in fact provides the roughage in the tiger\'s diet, helping the process of digestion. Having eaten his fill, a tiger may hide the kill and return to it later. Sometimes, being completely satiated, he may not hunt at all for a day or two.
The tiger is a nocturnal animal. Since he avoids the heat and the direct rays of the sun, most of the daylight hours are spent holed up near a nullah, lazing in shallow water or snatching some sleep in the cool of a clump of bamboo. Hunting time is dusk or later, sometimes just before the crack of dawn. But hunting in our tangled forests is no cakewalk. Only one in ten attempts