American bullfrog

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The American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus or Rana catesbeiana), often simply known as the bullfrog in Canada and the United States, is an amphibious frog, a member of the family Ranidae, or “true frogs”. This frog has an olive green back and sides blotched with brownish markings and a whitish belly spotted with yellow or grey. The upper lip is often bright green and males have yellow throats. It inhabits large, permanent water bodies, such as swamps, ponds, and lakes, where it is usually found along the water’s edge. The male bullfrog defends a territory during the breeding season. His call is reminiscent of the roar of a bull, which gives the frog its common name. This frog is native to southern and eastern parts of the United States and Canada, but has been widely introduced across other parts of North, Central and South America, Western Europe, and parts of Asia, and in some areas is regarded as an invasive species.

The bullfrog is harvested for use as food in North America and in several countries into which it has been introduced. It is also cultured in controlled environments, though this is a difficult and not always successful undertaking. Some international trade in frog legs occurs for human consumption. Bullfrogs are used in biology classes in schools for dissection and are sometimes kept as pets.

The dorsal (upper) surface of the bullfrog has an olive-green basal color, either plain or with a mottling and banding of grayish brown. The ventral (under) surface is off-white blotched with yellow or gray. Often, a marked contrast in color is seen between the green upper lip and the pale lower lip. The teeth are tiny and are useful only in grasping. The eyes are prominent with brown irises and horizontal, almond-shaped pupils. The tympana (eardrums) are easily seen just behind the eyes and the dorsolateral folds of skin end close to them. The limbs are blotched or banded with gray. The fore legs are short and sturdy and the hind legs long. The front toes are not webbed, but the back toes have webbing between the digits with the exception of the fourth toe, which is unwebbed.

Bullfrogs are sexually dimorphic, with males being smaller than females and having yellow throats. Males have tympana larger than their eyes, whereas the tympana in females are about the same size as the eyes. Bullfrogs measure about 3.6 to 6 in (9 to 15 cm) from snout to vent. They grow fast in the first eight months of life, typically increasing in weight from 5 to 175 g (0.18 to 6.17 oz), and large, mature individuals can weigh up to 500 g (1.1 lb). In some cases bullfrogs have been recorded as attaining 800 g (1.8 lb) and measuring up to 8 in (20 cm) in length.

After selecting a male, the female deposits eggs in his territory. During the mating grasp, or amplexus, the male rides on top of the female, grasping her just behind her fore limbs. The female chooses a site in shallow water among vegetation, and lays a batch of up to 20,000 eggs, and the male simultaneously releases sperm, resulting in external fertilization. The eggs form a thin, floating sheet which may cover an area of 0.5 to 1.0 m2 (5.4 to 10.8 sq ft). The embryos develop best at water temperatures between 24 and 30 °C (75 and 86 °F) and hatch in three to five days. If the water temperature rises above 32 °C (90 °F), developmental abnormalities occur, and if it falls below 15 °C (59 °F), normal development ceases. Newly hatched tadpoles show a preference for living in shallow water on fine gravel bottoms. This may reflect a lesser number of predators in these locations. As they grow, they tend to move into deeper water. The tadpoles initially have three pairs of external gills and several rows of labial teeth. They pump water through their gills by movements of the floor of their mouths, trapping bacteria, single-celled algaeprotozoans, pollen grains, and other small particles on mucus in a filtration organ in their pharynges. As they grow, they begin to ingest larger particles and use their teeth for rasping. They have downward-facing mouths, deep bodies, and tails with broad dorsal and ventral fins.

Time to metamorphosis ranges from a few months in the southern part of the range to 3 years in the north, where the colder water slows development. Maximum lifespan in the wild is estimated to be 8 to 10 years, but one frog lived for almost 16 years in captivity.

The American bullfrog provides a food source, especially in the Southern and some areas of the Midwestern United States. The traditional way of hunting them is to paddle or pole silently by canoe or flatboat in ponds or swamps at night; when the frog’s call is heard, a light is shone at the frog which temporarily inhibits its movement. The frog will not jump into deeper water as long as it is approached slowly and steadily. When close enough, the frog is gigged with a multiple-tined spear and brought into the boat. Bullfrogs can also be stalked on land, by again taking great care not to startle them. In some states, breaking the skin while catching them is illegal, and either grasping gigs or hand captures are used. The only parts normally eaten are the rear legs, which resemble small chicken drumsticks and can be cooked in similar ways.

American bullfrog caught at night by a pond in the Southern United States on a homemade frog gig

Commercial bullfrog culture in near-natural enclosed ponds has been attempted, but is fraught with difficulties. Although pelleted feed is available, the frogs will not willingly consume artificial diets, and providing sufficient live prey is challenging. Disease also tends to be a problem even when great care is taken to provide sanitary conditions. Other challenges to be overcome may be predation, cannibalism, and low water quality.[48] The frogs are large, have powerful leaps, and inevitably escape after which they may wreak havoc among the native frog population. Countries that export bullfrog legs include the Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, Bangladesh, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Most of these frogs are caught from the wild, but some are captive-reared. The United States is a net importer of frog legs.

The American bullfrog is used as a specimen for dissection in many schools across the world. It is the state amphibian of MissouriOhio, and Oklahoma.


Atole or Spanish About this sounda’tole , from Nahuatl ātōlli [aːˈtoːlːi]), also known as atol and atol de elote, is a traditional hot corn- and masa-based beverage of Mesoamerican origin. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It is typically accompanied with tamales, and very popular during the Christmas holiday season (las Posadas)

In Mexico[edit]

In Mexico, the drink typically includes masa (corn hominy flour), water, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), cinnamon, vanilla, and optional chocolate or fruit. The mixture is blended and heated before serving. Atole is made by toasting masa on a comal (griddle), then adding water that was boiled with cinnamon sticks. The resulting blends vary in texture, ranging from a porridge to a very thin, liquid consistency. Atole can also be prepared with riceflour, or oatmeal in place of masa. In northern Mexico, a variation is also made using pinole (sweetened toasted corn meal). Although atole is one of the traditional drinks of the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, it is very common during breakfast and dinnertime at any time of year. It is usually sold as street food.

Atole served at the Atole Fair in Coacalco de BerriozábalState of Mexico

In Northern Mexico and South Texas, atole is a traditional comfort food. It is often eaten as a breakfast or an after dinner snack on cold days. In New Mexicoblue corn atole is finely ground cornmeal toasted for cooking, consumed as a grainy porridge-style drink served warm, usually sweetened with sugar and/or thinned with milk. It is usually served at breakfast like cream of wheat or oatmeal. Elders are said to have drunk atole because it gave them energy and if a mother is nursing it gives her more milk.[1] Salvadoran varieties include atol shuco (“dirty” atol, a reference to its darker color), particularly popular in the Cabañas region.[2] The Nicaraguanhomologue is pinolillo. In some parts of Honduras, fresh corn is ground and the expressed liquid is used as the base (instead of masa

). 1235  N LOOP 336 WEST CONROE TX 77301


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Sheep follow a similar reproductive strategy to other herd animals. A group of ewes is generally mated by a single ram, who has either been chosen by a breeder or (in feral populations) has established dominance through physical contest with other rams. Most sheep are seasonal breeders, although some are able to breed year-round. Ewes generally reach sexual maturity at six to eight months old, and rams generally at four to six months. However, there are exceptions. For example, Finnsheep ewe lambs may reach puberty as early as 3 to 4 months, and Merino ewes sometimes reach puberty at 18 to 20 months. Ewes have estrus cycles about every 17 days, during which they emit a scent and indicate readiness through physical displays towards rams. A minority of rams (8% on average) display a preference for homosexuality  and a small number of the females that were accompanied by a male fetus in utero are freemartins (female animals that are behaviorally masculine and lack functioning ovaries).

In feral sheep, rams may fight during the rut to determine which individuals may mate with ewes. Rams, especially unfamiliar ones, will also fight outside the breeding period to establish dominance; rams can kill one another if allowed to mix freely. During the rut, even usually friendly rams may become aggressive towards humans due to increases in their hormone levels.

After mating, sheep have a gestation period of about five months, and normal labor takes one to three hours. Although some breeds regularly throw larger litters of lambs, most produce single or twin lambs. During or soon after labor, ewes and lambs may be confined to small lambing jugs, small pens designed to aid both careful observation of ewes and to cement the bond between them and their lambs.

A lamb’s first steps

Ovine obstetrics can be problematic. By selectively breeding ewes that produce multiple offspring with higher birth weights for generations, sheep producers have inadvertently caused some domestic sheep to have difficulty lambing; balancing ease of lambing with high productivity is one of the dilemmas of sheep breeding. In the case of any such problems, those present at lambing may assist the ewe by extracting or repositioning lambs. After the birth, ewes ideally break the amniotic sac (if it is not broken during labor), and begin licking clean the lamb. Most lambs will begin standing within an hour of birth. In normal situations, lambs nurse after standing, receiving vital colostrum milk. Lambs that either fail to nurse or are rejected by the ewe require help to survive, such as bottle-feeding or fostering by another ewe.

After lambs are several weeks old, lamb marking (ear taggingdocking, and castrating) is carried out. Vaccinations are usually carried out at this point as well. Ear tags with numbers are attached, or ear marks are applied, for ease of later identification of sheep. Castration is performed on ram lambs not intended for breeding, although some shepherds choose to omit this for ethical, economic or practical reasons. However, many would disagree with regard to timing. Docking and castration are commonly done after 24 hours (to avoid interference with maternal bonding and consumption of colostrum) and are often done not later than one week after birth, to minimize pain, stress, recovery time and complications. The first course of vaccinations (commonly anti-clostridial) is commonly given at an age of about 10 to 12 weeks; i.e. when the concentration of maternal antibodies passively acquired via colostrum is expected to have fallen low enough to permit development of active immunity. Ewes are often revaccinated annually about 3 weeks before lambing, to provide high antibody concentrations in colostrum during the first several hours after lambing. Ram lambs that will either be slaughtered or separated from ewes before sexual maturity are not usually castrated. Tail docking is commonly done for welfare, having been shown to reduce risk of flystrike. Objections to all these procedures have been raised by animal rights groups, but farmers defend them by saying they solve many practical and veterinary problems, and inflict only temporary pain.


A veterinarian draws blood to test for resistance to scrapie

Sheep may fall victim to poisons, infectious diseases, and physical injuries. As a prey species, a sheep’s system is adapted to hide the obvious signs of illness, to prevent being targeted by predators. However, some signs of ill health are obvious, with sick sheep eating little, vocalizing excessively, and being generally listless. Throughout history, much of the money and labor of sheep husbandry has aimed to prevent sheep ailments. Historically, shepherds often created remedies by experimentation on the farm. In some developed countries, including the United States, sheep lack the economic importance for drug companies to perform expensive clinical trials required to approve more than a relatively limited number of drugs for ovine use. However, extra-label drug use in sheep production is permitted in many jurisdictions, subject to certain restrictions. In the US, for example, regulations governing extra-label drug use in animals are found in 21 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 530. In the 20th and 21st centuries, a minority of sheep owners have turned to alternative treatments such as homeopathyherbalism and even traditional Chinese medicine to treat sheep veterinary problems. Despite some favorable anecdotal evidence, the effectiveness of alternative veterinary medicine has been met with skepticism in scientific journals. The need for traditional anti-parasite drugs and antibiotics is widespread, and is the main impediment to certified organic farming with sheep.

Many breeders take a variety of preventive measures to ward off problems. The first is to ensure all sheep are healthy when purchased. Many buyers avoid outlets known to be clearing houses for animals culled from healthy flocks as either sick or simply inferior. This can also mean maintaining a closed flock, and quarantining new sheep for a month. Two fundamental preventive programs are maintaining good nutrition and reducing stress in the sheep. Restraint, isolation, loud noises, novel situations, pain, heat, extreme cold, fatigue and other stressors can lead to secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone, in amounts that may indicate welfare problems. Excessive stress can compromise the immune system. “Shipping fever” (pneumonic mannheimiosis, formerly called pasteurellosis) is a disease of particular concern, that can occur as a result of stress, notably during transport and (or) handling. Pain, fear and several other stressors can cause secretion of epinephrine (adrenaline). Considerable epinephrine secretion in the final days before slaughter can adversely affect meat quality (by causing glycogenolysis, removing the substrate for normal post-slaughter acidification of meat) and result in meat becoming more susceptible to colonization by spoilage bacteria. Because of such issues, low-stress handling is essential in sheep management. Avoiding poisoning is also important; common poisons are pesticide sprays, inorganic fertilizermotor oil, as well as radiator coolant containing ethylene glycol.

A sheep infected with orf, a disease transmittable to humans through skin contact

Common forms of preventive medication for sheep are vaccinations and treatments for parasites. Both external and internal parasites are the most prevalent malady in sheep, and are either fatal, or reduce the productivity of flocks. Worms are the most common internal parasites. They are ingested during grazing, incubate within the sheep, and are expelled through the digestive system (beginning the cycle again). Oral anti-parasitic medicines, known as drenches, are given to a flock to treat worms, sometimes after worm eggs in the feces has been counted to assess infestation levels. Afterwards, sheep may be moved to a new pasture to avoid ingesting the same parasites. External sheep parasites include: lice (for different parts of the body), sheep kedsnose botssheep itch mites, and maggots. Keds are blood-sucking parasites that cause general malnutrition and decreased productivity, but are not fatal. Maggots are those of the bot fly and the blow-fly. Fly maggots cause the extremely destructive condition of flystrike. Flies lay their eggs in wounds or wet, manure-soiled wool; when the maggots hatch they burrow into a sheep’s flesh, eventually causing death if untreated. In addition to other treatments, crutching (shearing wool from a sheep’s rump) is a common preventive method. Some countries allow mulesing, a practice that involves stripping away the skin on the rump to prevent fly-strike, normally performed when the sheep is a lamb. Nose bots are fly larvae that inhabit a sheep’s sinuses, causing breathing difficulties and discomfort. Common signs are a discharge from the nasal passage, sneezing, and frantic movement such as head shaking. External parasites may be controlled through the use of backliners, sprays or immersive sheep dips.

A wide array of bacterial and viral diseases affect sheep. Diseases of the hoof, such as foot rot and foot scald may occur, and are treated with footbaths and other remedies. These painful conditions cause lameness and hinder feeding. Ovine Johne’s disease is a wasting disease that affects young sheep. Bluetongue disease is an insect-borne illness causing fever and inflammation of the mucous membranesOvine rinderpest (or peste des petits ruminants) is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease affecting sheep and goats. Sheep may also be affected by primary  or secondary photosensitization.

A few sheep conditions are transmissible to humans. Orf (also known as scabby mouth, contagious ecthyma or soremouth) is a skin disease leaving lesions that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Cutaneous anthrax is also called woolsorter’s disease, as the spores can be transmitted in unwashed wool. More seriously, the organisms that can cause spontaneous enzootic abortion in sheep are easily transmitted to pregnant women. Also of concern are the prion disease scrapie and the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), as both can devastate flocks. The latter poses a slight risk to humans. During the 2001 FMD pandemic in the UK, hundreds of sheep were culled and some rare British breeds were at risk of extinction due to this.


A lamb being attacked by coyotes with a bite to the throat

Other than parasites and disease, predation is a threat to sheep and the profitability of sheep raising. Sheep have little ability to defend themselves, compared with other species kept as livestock. Even if sheep survive an attack, they may die from their injuries or simply from panic. However, the impact of predation varies dramatically with region. In Africa, Australia, the Americas, and parts of Europe and Asia predators are a serious problem. In the United States, for instance, over one third of sheep deaths in 2004 were caused by predation. In contrast, other nations are virtually devoid of sheep predators, particularly islands known for extensive sheep husbandry.Worldwide, canids—including the domestic dog—are responsible for most sheep deaths. Other animals that occasionally prey on sheep include: felines, bears, birds of prey, ravens and feral hogs.

Sheep producers have used a wide variety of measures to combat predation. Pre-modern shepherds used their own presence, livestock guardian dogs, and protective structures such as barns and fencing. Fencing (both regular and electric), penning sheep at night and lambing indoors all continue to be widely used. More modern shepherds used guns, traps, and poisons to kill predators, causing significant decreases in predator populations. In the wake of the environmental and conservation movements, the use of these methods now usually falls under the purview of specially designated government agencies in most developed countries.

The 1970s saw a resurgence in the use of livestock guardian dogs and the development of new methods of predator control by sheep producers, many of them non-lethal. Donkeys and guard llamas have been used since the 1980s in sheep operations, using the same basic principle as livestock guardian dogs. Interspecific pasturing, usually with larger livestock such as cattle or horses, may help to deter predators, even if such species do not actively guard sheep. In addition to animal guardians, contemporary sheep operations may use non-lethal predator deterrents such as motion-activated lights and noisy alarms.


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The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, or, inaccurately, koala bear[a]) is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats, which comprise the family Vombatidae.. The koala is found in coastal areas of the mainland’s eastern and southern regions, inhabiting QueenslandNew South WalesVictoria, and South Australia. It is easily recognisable by its stout, tailless body and large head with round, fluffy ears and large, spoon-shaped nose. The koala has a body length of 60–85 cm (24–33 in) and weighs 4–15 kg (9–33 lb). Pelage colour ranges from silver grey to chocolate brown. Koalas from the northern populations are typically smaller and lighter in colour than their counterparts further south. These populations possibly are separate subspecies, but this is disputed.

Koalas typically inhabit open eucalypt woodlands, and the leaves of these trees make up most of their diet. Because this eucalypt diet has limited nutritional and caloric content, koalas are largely sedentary and sleep up to 20 hours a day. They are asocial animals, and bonding exists only between mothers and dependent offspring. Adult males communicate with loud bellows that intimidate rivals and attract mates. Males mark their presence with secretions from scent glands located on their chests. Being marsupials, koalas give birth to underdeveloped young that crawl into their mothers’ pouches, where they stay for the first six to seven months of their lives. These young koalas, known as joeys, are fully weaned around a year old. Koalas have few natural predators and parasites, but are threatened by various pathogens, such as Chlamydiaceae bacteria and the koala retrovirus, as well as by bushfires and droughts.

Koalas were hunted by Indigenous Australians and depicted in myths and cave art for millennia. The first recorded encounter between a European and a koala was in 1798, and an image of the animal was published in 1810 by naturalist George Perry. Botanist Robert Brown wrote the first detailed scientific description of the koala in 1814, although his work remained unpublished for 180 years. Popular artist John Gould illustrated and described the koala, introducing the species to the general British public. Further details about the animal’s biology were revealed in the 19th century by several English scientists. Because of its distinctive appearance, the koala is recognised worldwide as a symbol of Australia. Koalas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Australian government similarly lists specific populations in Queensland and New South Wales as Vulnerable. The animal was hunted heavily in the early 20th century for its fur, and large-scale cullings in Queensland resulted in a public outcry that initiated a movement to protect the species. Sanctuaries were established, and translocation efforts moved to new regions koalas whose habitat had become fragmented or reduced. The biggest threat to their existence is habitat destruction caused by agriculture and urbanisation.

The koala is a stocky animal with a large head and vestigial or non-existent tail. It has a body length of 60–85 cm (24–33 in) and a weight of 4–15 kg (9–33 lb), making it among the largest arboreal marsupials. Koalas from Victoria are twice as heavy as those from Queensland. The species is sexually dimorphic, with males 50% larger than females. Males are further distinguished from females by their more curved noses and the presence of chest glands, which are visible as hairless patches. As in most marsupials, the male koala has a bifurcated penis, and the female has two lateral vaginas and two separate uteri. The male’s penile sheath contains naturally occurring bacteria that play an important role in fertilisation. The female’s pouch opening is tightened by a sphincter that keeps the young from falling out.

The pelage of the koala is thicker and longer on the back, and shorter on the belly. The ears have thick fur on both the inside and outside. The back fur colour varies from light grey to chocolate brown. The belly fur is whitish; on the rump it is dappled whitish, and darker at the back. The koala has the most effective insulating back fur of any marsupial and is highly resilient to wind and rain, while the belly fur can reflect solar radiation. The koala’s curved, sharp claws are well adapted for climbing trees. The large forepaws have two opposable digits (the first and second, which are opposable to the other three) that allow them to grasp small branches. On the hindpaws, the second and third digits are fused, a typical condition for members of the Diprotodontia, and the attached claws (which are still separate) are used for grooming. As in humans and other primates, koalas have friction ridges on their paws. The animal has a sturdy skeleton and a short, muscular upper body with proportionately long upper limbs that contribute to its climbing and grasping abilities. Additional climbing strength is achieved with thigh muscles that attach to the shinbone lower than other animals. The koala has a cartilaginous pad at the end of the spine that may make it more comfortable when it perches in the fork of a tree.

Mounted skeleton

The koala has one of the smallest brains in proportion to body weight of any mammal, being 60% smaller than that of a typical diprotodont, weighing only 19.2 g (0.68 oz). The brain’s surface is fairly smooth, typical for a “primitive” animal. It occupies only 61% of the cranial cavity and is pressed against the inside surface by cerebrospinal fluid. The function of this relatively large amount of fluid is not known, although one possibility is that it acts as a shock absorber, cushioning the brain if the animal falls from a tree. The koala’s small brain size may be an adaptation to the energy restrictions imposed by its diet, which is insufficient to sustain a larger brain. Because of its small brain, the koala has a limited ability to perform complex, unfamiliar behaviours. For example, when presented with plucked leaves on a flat surface, the animal cannot adapt to the change in its normal feeding routine and will not eat the leaves. The koala’s olfactory senses are normal, and it is known to sniff the oils of individual branchlets to assess their edibility. Its nose is fairly large and covered in leathery skin. Its round ears provide it with good hearing, and it has a well-developed middle ear. A koala’s vision is not well developed, and its relatively small eyes are unusual among marsupials in that the pupils have vertical slits. Koalas make use of a novel vocal organ to produce low-pitched sounds (see social spacing, below). Unlike typical mammalian vocal cords, which are folds in the larynx, these organs are placed in the velum (soft palate) and are called velar vocal cords.

Teeth of a koala, from left to right: molarspremolars (dark), diastemacaninesincisors

The koala has several adaptations for its eucalypt diet, which is of low nutritive value, of high toxicity, and high in dietary fibre. The animal’s dentition consists of the incisors and cheek teeth (a single premolar and four molars on each jaw), which are separated by a large gap (a characteristic feature of herbivorous mammals). The incisors are used for grasping leaves, which are then passed to the premolars to be snipped at the petiole before being passed to the highly cusped molars, where they are shredded into small pieces. Koalas may also store food in their cheek pouches before it is ready to be chewed. The partially worn molars of middle-aged koalas are optimal for breaking the leaves into small particles, resulting in more efficient stomach digestion and nutrient absorption in the small intestine, which digests the eucalyptus leaves to provide most of the animal’s energy. A koala sometimes regurgitates the food into the mouth to be chewed a second time.

Unlike kangaroos and eucalyptus-eating possums, koalas are hindgut fermenters, and their digestive retention can last for up to 100 hours in the wild, or up to 200 hours in captivity. This is made possible by the extraordinary length of their caecum—200 cm (80 in) long and 10 cm (4 in) in diameter—the largest proportionally of any animal. Koalas can select which food particles to retain for longer fermentation and which to pass through. Large particles typically pass through more quickly, as they would take more time to digest. While the hindgut is proportionally larger in the koala than in other herbivores, only 10% of the animal’s energy is obtained from fermentation. Since the koala gains a low amount of energy from its diet, its metabolic rate is half that of a typical mammal, although this can vary between seasons and sexes. The koala conserves water by passing relatively dry faecal pellets high in undigested fibre, and by storing water in the caecum.


Cygnini , Known as Swans

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Swans are birds of the family Anatidae within the genus Cygnus. The swans’ close relatives include the geese and ducks. Swans are grouped with the closely related geese in the subfamily Anserinae where they form the tribeCygnini. Sometimes, they are considered a distinct subfamily, Cygninae. There are six or seven living (and one extinct) species of swan in the genus Cygnus; in addition, there is another species known as the coscoroba swan, although this species is no longer considered one of the true swans. Swans usually mate for life, although “divorce” sometimes occurs, particularly following nesting failure, and if a mate dies, the remaining swan will take up with another. The number of eggs in each clutch ranges from three to eight.

Swans are the largest extant members of the waterfowl family Anatidae, and are among the largest flying birds. The largest species, including the mute swantrumpeter swan, and whooper swan, can reach a length of over 1.5 m (59 in) and weigh over 15 kg (33 lb). Their wingspans can be over 3.1 m (10 ft). Compared to the closely related geese, they are much larger and have proportionally larger feet and necks. Adults also have a patch of unfeathered skin between the eyes and bill. The sexes are alike in plumage, but males are generally bigger and heavier than females.

The Northern Hemisphere species of swan have pure white plumage but the Southern Hemisphere species are mixed black and white. The Australian black swan (Cygnus atratus) is completely black except for the white flight feathers on its wings; the chicks of black swans are light grey. The South American black-necked swan has a white body with a black neck.

Swans’ legs are normally a dark blackish grey colour, except for the two South American species, which have pink legs. Bill colour varies: the four subarctic species have black bills with varying amounts of yellow, and all the others are patterned red and black. Although birds do not have teeth, swans have beaks with serrated edges that look like small jagged ‘teeth’ as part of their beaks used for catching and eating aquatic plants and algae, but also molluscs, small fish, frogs and worms. The mute swan and black-necked swan have lumps at the base of their bills on the upper mandible.

Swans feed in water and on land. They are almost entirely herbivorous, although they may eat small amounts of aquatic animals. In the water, food is obtained by up-ending or dabbling, and their diet is composed of the roots, tubers, stems and leaves of aquatic and submerged plants.

Mute swan threatens a photographer in ToyakoJapan.

Mute swan and cygnets
Mute swan and nine cygnets
Black swan and cygnet

Although swans only reach sexual maturity between 4 and 7 years of age, they can form socially monogamous pair bonds from as early as 20 months that last for many years, and in some cases these can last for life. The lifespan of the mute swan is often over 10 years, and sometimes over 20, whereas the black-necked swan survives for less than a decade in captivity. These bonds are maintained year-round, even in gregarious and migratory species like the tundra swan, which congregate in large flocks in the wintering grounds. Their nest is on the ground near water and about a metre across. Unlike many other ducks and geese, the male helps with the nest construction, and also take turns incubating the eggs, and alongside the whistling ducks are the only anatids that will do this. Average egg size (for the mute swan) is 113×74 mm, weighing 340 g, in a clutch size of 4 to 7, and an incubation period of 34–45 days. Swans are highly protective of their nests. They will viciously attack anything that they perceive as a threat to their chicks, including humans. One man was suspected to have drowned in such an attack.


Dove Symbolism


The Dove has seemingly inexhaustible sources of symbolic flavor throughout most histories, cultures and myth.

White DoveDoves are commonly considered a symbol of motherhood because of their unique ability to produce their own milk. Another confirmation about maternal attributes, as well as self-sacrifice for the sake of their offspring, is that they cease foraging for food just before their babies are born. This temporary starvation ensures a purer milk formulation for their offspring.

Historically, dove symbolism is associated with several mother figures:

  • The Mother Mary in Christian legend (care, devotion, purity and peace)
  • Ishtar in Assyrian culture (promise of hope and salvation)
  • Aphrodite and Venus (viewing the soul or a sense of higher love)

The softly lulling coos of the dove are testimony to a divinely calming presence among us. In fact, their soft vocalizations and docile appearance enhances their interpretation as celestial messengers – or the symbolic link between earth and air. The dove is a symbol of the soul’s release from its earth-bound duty.

On earth, they are intimately aware of their environment and demonstrate a highly developed sense of presence. As creatures of both the earth and the air, doves serve as liaisons between intuitive thought and common reality. This ability to move between two worlds (sky and earth), bird totems are uniquely posed to funnel higher knowledge down to our human conscious awareness. They link intangible knowing (thought, dreams, intuition) with physical practicality (hearth, home, security). Doves represent the balance between thought (air) and matter (earth).

Bridging this link between the higher mind and the more practical level in which we live makes the dove a perfect guide for dream interpretation as well. Bird totems offer inspiration combined with a grounding element to make new ideas implementable.Grey Dove

The dove represents peace of the deepest kind. It soothes and quiets our worried or troubled thoughts, enabling us to find renewal in the silence of the mind. The dove’s singing is most prevalent when the veils between the physical and spiritual worlds are thought to be at their thinnest – first thing in the morning and last thing at night – again representing a link between two divergent domains.

Doves teach us that, regardless of external circumstances, peace is always a touch a way – within us – and always available. It is said that if a dove flies into your life, you are being asked to go within and release your emotional disharmony. The dove helps us to rid the trauma stored deep within our cellular memory. Doves carry the energy of promise. When inner conflicts are banished from our thoughts, words and feelings, goodness awaits.

The dove’s roles as spirit messenger, maternal symbol and liaison impart an inner peace that helps us to go about our lives calmly and with purpose.

Giant panda


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The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, literally “black and white cat-foot”; Chinese大熊猫pinyindà xióng māo, literally “big bear cat”), also known as panda bear or simply panda, is a bear  native to south central China. It is easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. The name “giant panda” is sometimes used to distinguish it from the unrelated red panda. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the giant panda’s diet is over 99% bamboo. Giant pandas in the wild will occasionally eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents, or carrion. In captivity, they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food.

The giant panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan, but also in neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu. As a result of farming, deforestation, and other development, the giant panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived.

The giant panda is a conservation reliant vulnerable species. A 2007 report showed 239 pandas living in captivity inside China and another 27 outside the country. As of December 2014, 49 giant pandas lived in captivity outside China, living in 18 zoos in 13 different countries. Wild population estimates vary; one estimate shows that there are about 1,590 individuals living in the wild, while a 2006 study via DNA analysis estimated that this figure could be as high as 2,000 to 3,000. Some reports also show that the number of giant pandas in the wild is on the rise. In March 2015, Mongabay stated that the wild giant panda population had increased by 268, or 16.8%, to 1,864. In 2016, the IUCN reclassified the species from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.

While the dragon has often served as China’s national symbol, internationally the giant panda appears at least as commonly.[citation needed] As such, it is becoming widely used within China in international contexts, for example since 1982 issuing gold panda bullion coins or as one of the five Fuwa mascots of the Beijing Olympics.

The giant panda has luxuriant black-and-white fur. Adults measure around 1.2 to 1.9 m (4 to 6 ft) long, including a tail of about 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in), and 60 to 90 cm (2.0 to 3.0 ft) tall at the shoulder. Males can weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb). Females (generally 10–20% smaller than males) can weigh as little as 70 kg (150 lb), but can also weigh up to 125 kg (276 lb). Average adult weight is 100 to 115 kg (220 to 254 lb).

The giant panda has a body shape typical of bears. It has black fur on its ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, arms and shoulders. The rest of the animal’s coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, speculation suggests that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage in their shade-dappled snowy and rocky habitat. The giant panda’s thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat.The panda’s skull shape is typical of durophagous carnivorans. It has evolved from previous ancestors to exhibit larger molars with increased complexity and expanded temporal fossa. A 110.45 kg (243.5 lb) giant panda has a 3D canine teeth bite force of 2603.47 newtons and bite force quotient of 292.[citation needed] Another study had a 117.5 kg (259 lb) giant panda bite of 1298.9 newtons (BFQ 151.4) at canine teeth and 1815.9 newtons (BFQ 141.8) at carnassial teeth.

Bones of the left forelimb

The giant panda’s paw has a “thumb” and five fingers; the “thumb” – actually a modified sesamoid bone – helps it to hold bamboo while eating. Stephen Jay Gould discusses this feature in his book of essays on evolution and biologyThe Panda’s Thumb.

The giant panda’s tail, measuring 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in), is the second-longest in the bear family. (The longest belongs to the sloth bear.)

The giant panda typically lives around 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity. A female named Jia Jia was the oldest giant panda ever in captivity, born in 1978 and died at an age of 38 on 16 October 2016.




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Penguins (order Sphenisciformesfamily Spheniscidae) are a group of aquaticflightless birds. They live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, with only one species, the Galapagos penguin, found north of the equator. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have evolved into flippers. Most penguins feed on krillfishsquid and other forms of sea life which they catch while swimming underwater. They spend roughly half of their lives on land and the other half in the sea.

Although almost all penguin species are native to the Southern Hemisphere, they are not found only in cold climates, such as Antarctica. In fact, only a few species of penguin live so far south. Several species are found in the temperate zone, and one species, the Galápagos penguin, lives near the equator.

The largest living species is the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri): on average, adults are about 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 35 kg (77 lb). The smallest penguin species is the little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor), also known as the fairy penguin, which stands around 40 cm (16 in) tall and weighs 1 kg (2.2 lb). Among extant penguins, larger penguins inhabit colder regions, while smaller penguins are generally found in temperate or even tropical climates (see also Bergmann’s rule). Some prehistoric species attained enormous sizes, becoming as tall or as heavy as an adult human. These were not restricted to Antarctic regions; on the contrary, subantarctic regions harboured high diversity, and at least one giant penguin occurred in a region around 2,000 km south of the equator 35 mya, in a climate decidedly warmer than today.

The word penguin first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for great auk. When European explorers discovered what are today known as penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the great auk of the Northern Hemisphere, and named them after this bird, although they are not closely related.

The etymology of the word penguin is still debated. The English word is not apparently of French, Breton or Spanish origin (the latter two are attributed to the French word pingouin “auk“), but first appears in English or Dutch.

Some dictionaries suggest a derivation from Welsh pen, “head” and gwyn, “white”, including the Oxford English Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, the Century Dictionary  and Merriam-Webster, on the basis that the name was originally applied to the great auk, either because it was found on White Head Island (Welsh Pen Gwyn) in Newfoundland, or because it had white circles around its eyes (though the head was black).

An alternative etymology links the word to Latin pinguis, which means “fat” or “oil”. Support for this etymology can be found in the alternative Germanic word for penguin, fettgans or “fat-goose”, and the related Dutch word vetgans.

Adult male penguins are called cocks, females hens; a group of penguins on land is a waddle, and a similar group in the water is a raft.

Penguins are superbly adapted to aquatic life. Their vestigial wings have become flippers, useless for flight in the air. In the water, however, penguins are astonishingly agile. Penguins’ swimming looks very similar to bird’s flight in the air. Within the smooth plumage a layer of air is preserved, ensuring buoyancy. The air layer also helps insulate the birds in cold waters. On land, penguins use their tails and wings to maintain balance for their upright stance.

All penguins are countershaded for camouflage – that is, they have black backs and wings with white fronts. A predator looking up from below (such as an orca or a leopard seal) has difficulty distinguishing between a white penguin belly and the reflective water surface. The dark plumage on their backs camouflages them from above.

Diving penguins reach 6 to 12 km/h (3.7 to 7.5 mph), though there are reports of velocities of 27 km/h (17 mph) (which are more realistic in the case of startled flight).[citation needed] The small penguins do not usually dive deep; they catch their prey near the surface in dives that normally last only one or two minutes. Larger penguins can dive deep in case of need. Dives of the large emperor penguin have been recorded reaching a depth of 565 m (1,854 ft) for up to 22 minutes.

Penguins either waddle on their feet or slide on their bellies across the snow while using their feet to propel and steer themselves, a movement called “tobogganing”, which conserves energy while moving quickly. They also jump with both feet together if they want to move more quickly or cross steep or rocky terrain.

Penguins have an average sense of hearing for birds; this is used by parents and chicks to locate one another in crowded colonies. Their eyes are adapted for underwater vision, and are their primary means of locating prey and avoiding predators; in air it has been suggested that they are nearsighted, although research has not supported this hypothesis.

Gentoo penguin swimming underwater at Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium.

Penguins have a thick layer of insulating feathers that keeps them warm in water (heat loss in water is much greater than in air). The emperor penguin has a maximum feather density of about nine feathers per square centimeter which is actually much lower than other birds that live in antarctic environments. However, they have been identified as having at least four different types of feather: in addition to the traditional feather, the emperor has afterfeathersplumules, and filoplumes. The afterfeathers are downy plumes that attach directly to the main feathers and were once believed to account for the bird’s ability to conserve heat when under water; the plumules are small down feathers that attach directly to the skin, and are much more dense in penguins than other birds; lastly the filoplumes are small (less than 1 cm long) naked shafts that end in a splay of fibers— filoplumes were believed to give flying birds a sense of where their plumage was and whether or not it needed preening, so their presence in penguins may seem inconsistent, but penguins also preen extensively.

The emperor penguin has the largest body mass of all penguins, which further reduces relative surface area and heat loss. They also are able to control blood flow to their extremities, reducing the amount of blood that gets cold, but still keeping the extremities from freezing. In the extreme cold of the Antarctic winter, the females are at sea fishing for food leaving the males to brave the weather by themselves. They often huddle together to keep warm and rotate positions to make sure that each penguin gets a turn in the center of the heat pack.

Calculations of the heat loss and retention ability of marine endotherms  suggest that most extant penguins are too small to survive in such cold environments. In 2007, Thomas and Fordyce wrote about the “heterothermic loophole” that penguins utilize in order to survive in Antarctica. All extant penguins, even those that live in warmer climates, have a counter-current heat exchanger called the humeral plexus. The flippers of penguins have at least three branches of the axillary artery, which allows cold blood to be heated by blood that has already been warmed and limits heat loss from the flippers. This system allows penguins to efficiently use their body heat and explains why such small animals can survive in the extreme cold.

They can drink salt water because their supraorbital gland filters excess salt from the bloodstream. The salt is excreted in a concentrated fluid from the nasal passages.

The great auk of the Northern Hemisphere, now extinct, was superficially similar to penguins, and the word penguin was originally used for that bird, centuries ago. They are only distantly related to the penguins, but are an example of convergent evolution.

Penguins appear to have no special fear of humans, and will approach groups of people without hesitation. This is probably because penguins have no land predators in Antarctica or the nearby offshore islands. Dogs preyed upon penguins while they were allowed in Antarctica during the age of early human exploration as sled dogs, but dogs have long since been banned from Antarctica. Instead, adult penguins are at risk at sea from predators such as sharks, the orca, and the leopard seal. Typically, penguins do not approach closer than around 9 feet (3 meters) at which point they appear to become nervous. This is also the distance that Antarctic tourists are instructed to maintain between themselves and penguins: tourists are instructed not to approach closer than 9 feet, but need not withdraw if the penguins come closer.

In June 2011, a penguin came ashore on New Zealand’s Peka Peka Beach, 3200 km off course on its journey to Antarctica. Nicknamed Happy Feet, after the movie of the same name, it was suffering from heat exhaustion and had to undergo a number of operations to remove objects like driftwood and sand from its stomach. Happy Feet was a media sensation, with extensive coverage on TV and the web, including a live stream that had thousands of views and a visit from English actor Stephen Fry.

Once he had recovered, Happy Feet was released back into the water south of New Zealand.

Penguins are popularly loved around the world, primarily for their unusually upright, waddling gait, impressive swimming ability and (compared to other birds) lack of fear of humans. Their striking black-and-white plumage is often likened to a white tie suit. Mistakenly, some artists and writers have penguins based at the North Pole. This is incorrect, as there are no wild penguins in the Arctic. The cartoon series Chilly Willy helped perpetuate this myth, as the title penguin would interact with Arctic or subarctic species, such as polar bears and walruses.

Penguins have been the subject of many books and films, such as Happy FeetSurf’s Up and The Penguins of Madagascar, all CGI films; March of the Penguins, a documentary based on the migration process of the emperor penguin; and a parody titled Farce of the PenguinsMr. Popper’s Penguins is a children’s book written by Richard and Florence Atwater; it was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1939. Penguins have also found their way into a number of cartoons and television dramas; perhaps the most notable of these is Pingu, created by Silvio Mazzola in 1986 and covering more than 100 short episodes. At the end of 2009, Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, “best-of” list, saying, “Whether they were walking (March of the Penguins), dancing (Happy Feet), or hanging ten (Surf’s Up), these oddly adorable birds took flight at the box office all decade long.”

A video game called Pengo was released by Sega in 1982. Set in Antarctica, the player controls a penguin character who must navigate mazes of ice-cubes. The player is rewarded with cut-scenes of animated penguins marching, dancing, saluting and playing peekaboo. Several remakes and enhanced editions have followed, most recently in 2012.

Several pro, minor, college and high school sport teams have named themselves after the species, with the Pittsburgh Penguins team in the National Hockey League and the Youngstown State Penguins being the most recognizable.

The tendency of penguins to form large groups feeds the stereotype that they all look exactly alike, a popular notion exploited by cartoonists such as Gary Larson.

Penguins featured regularly in the cartoons of UK cartoonist Steve Bell in his strip in The Guardian newspaper, particularly during and following the Falklands War, and the well-known Opus the Penguin, from the cartoons of Berkeley Breathed, is also described as hailing from the Falklands. Opus was a comical, “existentialist” penguin character in the cartoons Bloom CountyOutland and Opus. He was also the star in the Christmas show A Wish for Wings That Work.

In the mid-2000s, penguins became one of the most publicized species of animals that form lasting homosexual couples. A children’s bookAnd Tango Makes Three, was written about one such penguin family in the New York Zoo.


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Sparrows are a family of small passerine birds. They are also known as true sparrows, or Old World sparrows, names also used for a particular genus of the family, Passer.[1] They are distinct from both the American sparrows, in the family Passerellidae, and from a few other birds sharing their name, such as the Java sparrow of the family Estrildidae. Many species nest on buildings and the house and Eurasian tree sparrows, in particular, inhabit cities in large numbers, so sparrows are among the most familiar of all wild birds. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. Some species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or rock doves will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities.

Generally, sparrows are small, plump, brown and grey birds with short tails and stubby, powerful beaks. The differences between sparrow species can be subtle. Members of this family range in size from the chestnut sparrow(Passer eminibey), at 11.4 centimetres (4.5 in) and 13.4 grams (0.47 oz), to the parrot-billed sparrow (Passer gongonensis), at 18 centimetres (7.1 in) and 42 grams (1.5 oz). Sparrows are physically similar to other seed-eating birds, such as finches, but have a vestigial dorsal outer primary feather and an extra bone in the tongue. This bone, the preglossale, helps stiffen the tongue when holding seeds. Other adaptations towards eating seeds are specialised bills and elongated and specialised alimentary canals

The family Passeridae was introduced (as Passernia) by the French polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1815. Under the classification used in the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) main groupings of the sparrows are the true sparrows (genus Passer), the snowfinches (typically one genus, Montifringilla), and the rock sparrows (Petronia and the pale rockfinch). These groups are similar to each other, and are each fairly homogeneous, especially Passer. Some classifications also include the sparrow-weavers (Plocepasser) and several other African genera (otherwise classified among the weavers, Ploceidae) which are morphologically similar to Passer. According to a study of molecular and skeletal evidence by Jon Fjeldså and colleagues, the cinnamon ibon of the Philippines, previously considered to be a white-eye, is a sister taxon to the sparrows as defined by the HBW. They therefore classify it as its own subfamily within Passeridae.

Many early classifications of the sparrows placed them as close relatives of the weavers among the various families of small seed-eating birds, based on the similarity of their breeding behaviour, bill structure, and moult, among other characters. Some, starting with P. P. Suskin in the 1920s, placed the sparrows in the weaver family as the subfamily Passerinae, and tied them to Plocepasser. Another family sparrows were classed with was the finches(Fringillidae).

Some authorities previously classified the related estrildid finches of the Old World tropics and Australasia as members of the Passeridae. Like sparrows, the estrildid finches are small, gregarious and often colonial seed-eaters with short, thick, but pointed bills. They are broadly similar in structure and habits, but tend to be very colourful and vary greatly in their plumage. The 2008 Christidis and Boles taxonomic scheme lists the estrildid finches as the separate family Estrildidae, leaving just the true sparrows in Passeridae.

Despite some resemblance such as the seed-eater’s bill and frequently well-marked heads, American sparrows, or New World sparrows, are members of a different family, Passerellidae, with 22 genera recognised. Several species in this family are notable singers. American sparrows are related to Old World buntings, and until 2017, were included in the Old World bunting family Emberizidae. The hedge sparrow or dunnock (Prunella modularis) is similarly unrelated. It is a sparrow in name only, a relict of the old practice of calling more types of small birds “sparrows”. A few further bird species are also called sparrows, such as the Java sparrow, an estrildid finch.

The sparrows are indigenous to Europe, Africa and Asia. In the Americas, Australia, and other parts of the world, settlers imported some species which quickly naturalised, particularly in urban and degraded areas. House sparrows, for example, are now found throughout North America, Australia (every state except Western Australia), parts of southern and eastern Africa, and over much of the heavily populated parts of South America.

The sparrows are generally birds of open habitats, including grasslandsdeserts, and scrubland. The snowfinches and ground-sparrows are all species of high latitudes. A few species, like the Eurasian tree sparrow, inhabit open woodland. The aberrant cinnamon ibon has the most unusual habitat of the family, inhabiting the canopy of cloud forest in the Philippines.

Sparrows are generally social birds, with many species breeding in loose colonies and most species occurring in flocks during the non-breeding season. The great sparrow is an exception, breeding in solitary pairs and remaining only in small family groups in the non-breeding season. Most sparrows form large roosting aggregations in the non-breeding seasons that contain only a single species (in contrast to multi-species flocks that might gather for foraging). Sites are chosen for cover and include trees, thick bushes and reed beds. The assemblages can be quite large with up to 10,000 house sparrows counted in one roost in Egypt.

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House sparrows water bathing near Black Sea in BatumiGeorgia

The sparrows are some of the few passerine birds that engage in dust bathing. Sparrows will first scratch a hole in the ground with their feet, then lie in it and fling dirt or sand over their bodies with flicks of their wings. They will also bathe in water, or in dry or melting snow. Water bathing is similar to dust bathing, with the sparrow standing in shallow water and flicking water over its back with its wings, also ducking its head under the water. Both activities are social, with up to a hundred birds participating at once, and is followed by preening and sometimes group singing.

Sparrows may be the most familiar of all wild birds worldwide. Many sparrow species commonly live in agricultural areas, and for several, human settlements are a primary habitat. The Eurasian tree and house sparrows are particularly specialised in living around humans and inhabit cities in large numbers. 17 of the 26 species recognised by the Handbook of the Birds of the World are known to nest on and feed around buildings.

Grain-eating species, in particular the house and Sudan golden sparrows, can be significant agricultural pests. Sparrows can be beneficial to humans as well, especially by eating insect pests. Attempts at the large-scale control of sparrows have failed to affect sparrow populations significantly, or have been accompanied by major increases in insect attacks probably resulting from a reduction of sparrows, as in the Great Sparrow Campaign in 1950s China.

Because of their familiarity, the house sparrow and other sparrows are frequently used to represent the common and vulgar, or the lewd. Birds usually described later as sparrows are referred to in many works of ancient literature and religious texts in Europe and western Asia. These references may not always refer specifically to sparrows, or even to small, seed-eating birds, but later writers who were inspired by these texts often had the house sparrow and other members of the family in mind. In particular, sparrows were associated by the ancient Greeks with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, due to their perceived lustfulness, an association echoed by later writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare.

Jesus’s use of “sparrows” as an example of divine providence in the Gospel of Matthew  also inspired later references, such as that in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Gospel hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow.

Sparrows are represented in ancient Egyptian art very rarely, but an Egyptian hieroglyph is based on the house sparrow. The symbol had no phonetic value and was used as a determinative in words to indicate smallnarrow, or bad.[18]

Sparrows have been kept as pets at many times in history, even though most are not particularly colourful and their songs are unremarkable. They are also difficult to keep, as pet sparrows must be raised by hand and a considerable amount of insects are required to feed them. Nevertheless, many are successful in hand raising orphaned or abandoned baby sparrows.

The earliest mentions of pet sparrows are from the Romans. Not all the passeri mentioned, often as pets, in Roman literature were necessarily sparrows, but some accounts of them clearly describe their appearance and habits. The pet passer of Lesbia in Catullus‘s poems may not have been a sparrow, but a thrush or European goldfinchJohn Skelton‘s The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe is a lament for a pet house sparrow belonging to a Jane Scrope, narrated by Scrope.


Bengal Tiger

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The Bengal tiger is a Panthera tigris tigris population in the Indian subcontinent. It was treated as the nominate tiger subspecies prior to 2017.[3] This tiger population was estimated at fewer than 2,500 individuals by 2011. Since 2008, it is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and is threatened by poachingloss and fragmentation of habitat. None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within its range is considered large enough to support an effective population of more than 250 adult individuals.[1] India‘s tiger population was estimated at 1,706–1,909 individuals in 2010.[4] By 2014, the population had reputedly increased to an estimated 2,226 individuals.[5] Around 440 tigers are estimated in Bangladesh, 163–253 tigers in Nepal and 103 tigers in Bhutan.[6][7][8][9]

The tiger arrived in the Indian subcontinent about 12,000 years ago.[10] The Bengal tiger ranks among the biggest wild cats alive today.[2][11] It is considered to belong to the world’s charismatic megafauna.[12]

The Bengal tiger is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh.[13] It is also known as the Royal Bengal tiger.


The Bengal is the traditional type locality for the binomen Panthera tigris, to which the British taxonomist Reginald Innes Pocock subordinated the Bengal tiger in 1929 under the trinomen Panthera tigris tigris.[2][15]

The validity of several tiger subspecies in continental Asia was questioned in 1999. Morphologically, tigers from different regions vary little, and gene flow between populations in those regions is considered to have been possible during the Pleistocene. Therefore, it was proposed to recognize only two subspecies as valid, namely P. t. tigris in mainland Asia, and P. t. sondaica in the Greater Sunda Islands and possibly in Sundaland.[16] In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group revised felid taxonomy and now recognizes the extinct and living tiger populations in continental Asia as P. t. tigris.[3]

Genetic ancestry

The Bengal tiger is defined by three distinct mitochondrial nucleotide sites and 12 unique microsatellite alleles. The pattern of genetic variation in the Bengal tiger corresponds to the premise that it arrived in India approximately 12,000 years ago.[17] This is consistent with the lack of tiger fossils from the Indian subcontinent prior to the late Pleistocene, and the absence of tigers from Sri Lanka, which was separated from the subcontinent by rising sea levels in the early Holocene.[10]


A male tiger in Ranthambore National Park
Facial close up of Sultan, a male in Ranthambore National Park

The Bengal tiger’s coat is yellow to light orange, with stripes ranging from dark brown to black; the belly and the interior parts of the limbs are white, and the tail is orange with black rings. The white tiger is a recessive mutant of the tiger, which is reported in the wild from time to time in Assam, Bengal, Bihar, and especially from the former State of Rewa. However, it is not to be mistaken as an occurrence of albinism. In fact, there is only one fully authenticated case of a true albino tiger, and none of black tigers, with the possible exception of one dead specimen examined in Chittagong in 1846.[18]

Males have an average total length of 270 to 310 cm (110 to 120 in) including the tail, while females measure 240 to 265 cm (94 to 104 in) on average.[2] The tail is typically 85 to 110 cm (33 to 43 in) long, and on average, tigers are 90 to 110 cm (35 to 43 in) in height at the shoulders.[19] The weight of males ranges from 180 to 258 kg (397 to 569 lb), while that of the females ranges from 100 to 160 kg (220 to 350 lb).[2] The smallest recorded weights for Bengal tigers are from the Bangladesh Sundarbans, where adult females are 75 to 80 kg (165 to 176 lb).[20]

The tiger has exceptionally stout teeth. Its canines are 7.5 to 10 cm (3.0 to 3.9 in) long and thus the longest among all cats.[21] The greatest length of its skull is 332 to 376 mm (13.1 to 14.8 in).[16]

Body weight

Bengal tigers weigh up to 325 kg (717 lb), and reach a head and body length of 320 cm (130 in).[21] Several scientists indicated that adult male Bengal tigers from the Terai in Nepal and Bhutan, and Assam, Uttarakhand and West Bengal in north India consistently attain more than 227 kg (500 lb) of body weight. Seven adult males captured in Chitwan National Park in the early 1970s had an average weight of 235 kg (518 lb) ranging from 200 to 261 kg (441 to 575 lb), and that of the females was 140 kg (310 lb) ranging from 116 to 164 kg (256 to 362 lb).[22] Thus, the Bengal tiger rivals the Amur tiger in average weight.[23] In addition, the record for the greatest length of skulls of tigers was an “over the bone” length of 16.25 in (413 mm) for a tiger shot in the vicinity of Nagina in northern India.[24]

Verifiable Sundarbans tiger weights are not found in any scientific literature. Forest Department records list weight measurements, but all are guesstimates and not verifiable. There are also reports of head and body lengths, some of which are listed as over 366 cm (144 in). More recently, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Bangladesh Forest Department carried out a study for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and weighed three Sundarbans tigresses from Bangladesh. Two of them were captured and sedated for radio-collaring, the other one had been killed by local villagers. The two collared tigresses were weighed using 150 kg (330 lb) scales, and the tigress killed by villagers was weighed using a balance scale and weights. The three tigresses had a mean weight of 76.7 kg (169 lb). One of the two older female’s weight 75 kg (165 lb) weighed slightly less than the mean because of her old age and relatively poor condition at the time of capture. The teeth wear of the two radio-collared females indicated that they were between 12 and 14 years old. The tigress killed by the villagers was a young adult, probably between 3 and 4 years old, and she was likely a pre-territorial transient. Skulls and body weights of Sundarbans tigers were found to be distinct from tigers in other habitats, indicating that they may have adapted to the unique conditions of the mangrove habitat. Their small sizes are probably due to a combination of intense intraspecific competition and small size of prey available to tigers in the Sundarbans, compared to the larger deer and other prey available to tigers in other parts.[25]


Two tigers shot in Kumaon and near Oude at the end of the 19th century allegedly measured more than 12 ft (366 cm). But at the time, sportsmen had not yet adopted a standard system of measurement; some measured ‘between the pegs’ while others measured ‘over the curves’.[26]

In the beginning of the 20th century, a male tiger was shot in central India with a head and body length of 221 cm (87 in) between pegs, a chest girth of 150 cm (59 in), a shoulder height of 109 cm (43 in) and a tail length of 81 cm (32 in), which was perhaps bitten off by a rival male. This specimen could not be weighed, but it was calculated to weigh no less than 272 kg (600 lb).[27] A heavy male weighing 570 lb (259 kg) was shot in northern India in the 1930s.[24] In 1980 and 1984, scientists captured and tagged two male tigers in Chitwan National Park that weighed more than 270 kg (595 lb).[28]

The heaviest wild tiger was disputably a huge male killed in 1967 by David Hassinger at the foothills of the Himalayas.[29][30] It weighed 388.7 kg (857 lb) after eating a buffalo calf, and measured 323 cm (127 in) in total length between pegs, and 338 cm (133 in) over curves. Without eating the calf beforehand, it would have likely weighed at least 324.3 kilograms (715 lb). This specimen is on exhibition in the Mammals Hall of the Smithsonian Institution.[31]

Distribution and habitat

In 1982, a sub-fossil right middle phalanx was found in a prehistoric midden near Kuruwita in Sri Lanka, which is dated to about 16,500 ybp and tentatively considered to be of a tiger. Tigers appear to have arrived in Sri Lanka during a pluvial period, during which sea levels were depressed, evidently prior to the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago.[32] In 1929, the British taxonomist Pocock assumed that tigers arrived in southern India too late to colonize Sri Lanka, which earlier had been connected to India by a land bridge.[15]

Results of a phylogeographic study using 134 samples from tigers across the global range suggest that the historical northeastern distribution limit of the Bengal tiger is the region in the Chittagong Hills and Brahmaputra River basin, bordering the historical range of the Indochinese tiger.[10][33]

In the Indian subcontinent, tigers inhabit tropical moist evergreen foreststropical dry forests, tropical and subtropical moist deciduous forestsmangroves, subtropical and temperate upland forests, and alluvial grasslands. Latter habitat once covered a huge swath of grassland, riverine and moist semi-deciduous forests along the major river system of the Gangetic and Brahmaputra plains, but has now been largely converted to agricultural land or severely degraded. Today, the best examples of this habitat type are limited to a few blocks at the base of the outer foothills of the Himalayas including the Tiger Conservation Units (TCUs) RajajiCorbettBardiaBanke, and the transboundary TCUs ChitwanParsaValmikiDudhwaKailali and ShuklaphantaKishanpur. Tiger densities in these TCUs are high, in part because of the extraordinary biomass of ungulate prey.[34]

The tigers in the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh are the only ones in the world inhabiting mangrove forests. The population in the Indian Sundarbans is estimated as 70 tigers in total.[4]


Tigress with cubs in Kanha Tiger Reserve

In the past, Indian censuses of wild tigers relied on the individual identification of footprints known as pug marks — a method that has been criticised as deficient and inaccurate, though now camera traps are being used in many places.[35]

Good tiger habitats in subtropical and temperate upland forests include the Tiger Conservation Units (TCUs) ManasNamdapha. TCUs in tropical dry forest include Hazaribag Wildlife SanctuaryNagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger ReserveKanhaIndravati corridor, Orissa dry forestsPanna National ParkMelghat Tiger Reserve and Ratapani Tiger Reserve. The TCUs in tropical moist deciduous forest are probably some of the most productive habitats for tigers and their prey, and include KazirangaMeghalayaKanhaPenchSimlipal and Indravati Tiger Reserves. The TCUs in tropical moist evergreen forests represent the less common tiger habitats, being largely limited to the upland areas and wetter parts of the Western Ghats, and include the tiger reserves of PeriyarKalakad-MundathuraiBandipur and Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary.[34]

During the tiger census of 2008, camera trap and sign surveys using GIS were employed to project site-specific densities of tigers, their co-predators and prey. Based on the result of these surveys, the total tiger population was estimated at 1,411 individuals ranging from 1,165 to 1,657 adult and sub-adult tigers of more than 1.5 years of age. Across India, six landscape complexes were surveyed that host tigers and have the potential to be connected. These landscapes comprise the following:[36]

In May 2008, forest officials spotted 14 tiger cubs in Rajasthan‘s Ranthambore National Park.[37] In June 2008, a tiger from Ranthambore was relocated to Sariska Tiger Reserve, where all tigers had fallen victim to poachers and human encroachments since 2005.[38]

As of 2014, adult and subadult tigers at 1.5 years or older are estimated to number 408 in Karnataka, 340 in Uttarakhand, 308 in Madhya Pradesh, 229 in Tamil Nadu, 190 in Maharashtra, 167 in Assam, 136 in Kerala, and 117 in Uttar Pradesh.[39]


A tiger in Bangladesh, 2015

Tigers in Bangladesh are now relegated to the forests of the Sundarbans and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[40] The Chittagong forest is contiguous with tiger habitat in India and Myanmar, but the tiger population is of unknown status.[41]

As of 2004, population estimates in Bangladesh ranged from 200 to 419, mostly in the Sundarbans.[40][42] This region is the only mangrove habitat in this bioregion, where tigers survive, swimming between islands in the delta to hunt prey.[34] Bangladesh’s Forest Department is raising mangrove plantations supplying forage for spotted deer. Since 2001, afforestation has continued on a small scale in newly accreted lands and islands of the Sundarbans.[6]From October 2005 to January 2007, the first camera-trap survey was conducted across six sites in the Bangladesh Sundarbans to estimate tiger population density. The average of these six sites provided an estimate of 3.7 tigers per 100 km2 (39 sq mi). Since the Bangladesh Sundarbans is an area of 5,770 km2 (2,230 sq mi) it was inferred that the total tiger population comprised approximately 200 individuals.[43] In another study, home ranges of adult female tigers were recorded comprising between 12 and 14 km2 (4.6 and 5.4 sq mi), which would indicate an approximate carrying capacity of 150 adult females.[44][45] The small home range of adult female tigers (and consequent high density of tigers) in this habitat type relative to other areas may be related to both the high density of prey and the small size of the Sundarban tigers.[20]

Since 2007 tiger monitoring surveys have been carried out every year by WildTeam in the Bangladesh Sundarbans to monitor changes in the Bangladesh tiger population and assess the effectiveness of conservation actions. This survey measures changes in the frequency of tiger track sets along the sides of tidal waterways as an index of relative tiger abundance across the Sundarbans landscape.[46]

By 2009, the tiger population in the Bangladesh Sundarbans was estimated as 100–150 adult females or 335–500 tigers overall. Female home ranges, recorded using Global Positioning System collars, were some of the smallest recorded for tigers, indicating that the Bangladesh Sundarbans could have one of the highest densities and largest populations of tigers anywhere in the world. They are isolated from the next tiger population by a distance of up to 300 km (190 mi). Information is lacking on many aspects of Sundarbans tiger ecology, including relative abundance, population status, spatial dynamics, habitat selection, life history characteristics, taxonomy, genetics, and disease. There is also no monitoring program in place to track changes in the tiger population over time, and therefore no way of measuring the response of the population to conservation activities or threats. Most studies have focused on the tiger-human conflict in the area, but two studies in the Sundarbans East Wildlife sanctuary documented habitat-use patterns of tigers, and abundances of tiger prey, and another study investigated tiger parasite load. Some major threats to tigers have been identified. The tigers living in the Sundarbans are threatened by habitat destruction, prey depletion, highly aggressive and rampant intraspecific competition, tiger-human conflict, and direct tiger loss.[25]


Tigers and a bear killed by King George V in Nepal, in 1911

The tiger population in the Terai of Nepal is split into three isolated subpopulations that are separated by cultivation and densely settled habitat. The largest population lives in Chitwan National Park and in the adjacent Parsa National Park encompassing an area of 2,543 km2 (982 sq mi) of prime lowland forest. To the west, the Chitwan population is isolated from the one in Bardia National Park and adjacent unprotected habitat farther west, extending to within 15 km (9.3 mi) of the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, which harbours the smallest population.[47] The bottleneck between the Chitwan-Parsa and Bardia-Sukla Phanta metapopulations is situated just north of the town of Butwal.

As of 2009, an estimated 121 breeding tigers lived in Nepal.[48] By 2010, the number of adult tigers had reached 155.[49] A survey conducted from December 2009 to March 2010 indicates that 125 adult tigers live in Chitwan National Park and its border areas covering 1,261 km2 (487 sq mi).[50]

From February to June 2013, a camera trapping survey was carried out in the Terai Arc Landscape, covering an area of 4,841 km2 (1,869 sq mi) in 14 districts. The country’s tiger population was estimated at 163–235 breeding adults comprising 102–152 tigers in the Chitwan-Parsa protected areas, 48–62 in the Bardia-Banke National Parks and 13–21 in the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve.[51]


As of 2015, the population in Bhutan is estimated at 103 individuals.[9] Tigers occur from an altitude of 200 m (660 ft) in the subtropical Himalayan foothills in the south along the border with India to over 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in the temperate forests in the north, and are known from 17 of 18 districts. Their stronghold appears to be the central belt of the country ranging in altitude between 2,000 and 3,500 m (6,600 and 11,500 ft), between the Mo River in the west and the Kulong River in the east.[52] In 2010, camera traps recorded a pair of tigers at altitudes of 3,000 to 4,100 m (9,800 to 13,500 ft). The male was recorded scent-marking, and the female can also be seen to be lactating, confirming that the pair are living within their own territory, and strongly suggesting they are breeding at that altitude.[53]

Ecology and behavior

A tigress having a bath in the Ranthambhore Tiger ReserveRajasthan, India
A tigress with her cubs in the Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

The basic social unit of the tiger is the elemental one of mother and offspring. Adult animals congregate only on an ad hoc and transitory basis when special conditions permit, such as plentiful supply of food. Otherwise they lead solitary lives, hunting individually for the dispersed forest and tall grassland animals, upon which they prey. They establish and maintain home ranges. Resident adults of either sex tend to confine their movements to a definite area of habitat within which they satisfy their needs, and in the case of tigresses, those of their growing cubs. Besides providing the requirements of an adequate food supply, sufficient water and shelter, and a modicum of peace and seclusion, this location must make it possible for the resident to maintain contact with other tigers, especially those of the opposite sex. Those sharing the same ground are well aware of each other’s movements and activities.[18]

In the Panna Tiger Reserve an adult radio-collared male tiger moved 1.7 to 10.5 km (1.1 to 6.5 mi) between locations on successive days in winter, and 1 to 13.9 km (0.62 to 8.64 mi) in summer. His home range was about 200 km2 (77 sq mi) in summer and 110 km2 (42 sq mi) in winter. Included in his home range were the much smaller home ranges of two females, a tigress with cubs and a sub-adult tigress. They occupied home ranges of 16 to 31 km2 (6.2 to 12.0 sq mi).[54]

The home ranges occupied by adult male residents tend to be mutually exclusive, even though one of these residents may tolerate a transient or sub-adult male at least for a time. A male tiger keeps a large territory in order to include the home ranges of several females within its bounds, so that he may maintain mating rights with them. Spacing among females is less complete. Typically there is partial overlap with neighboring female residents. They tend to have core areas, which are more exclusive, at least for most of the time. Home ranges of both males and females are not stable. The shift or alteration of a home range by one animal is correlated with a shift of another. Shifts from less suitable habitat to better ones are made by animals that are already resident. New animals become residents only as vacancies occur when a former resident moves out or dies. There are more places for resident females than for resident males.[18]

During seven years of camera trapping, tracking, and observational data in Chitwan National Park, 6 to 9 breeding tigers, 2 to 16 non-breeding tigers, and 6 to 20 young tigers of less than one year of age were detected in the study area of 100 km2 (39 sq mi). One of the resident females left her territory to one of her female offspring and took over an adjoining area by displacing another female; and a displaced female managed to re-establish herself in a neighboring territory made vacant by the death of the resident. Of 11 resident females, 7 were still alive at the end of the study period, 2 disappeared after losing their territories to rivals, and 2 died. The initial loss of two resident males and subsequent take over of their home ranges by new males caused social instability for two years. Of 4 resident males, 1 was still alive and 3 were displaced by rivals. Five litters of cubs were killed by infanticide, 2 litters died because they were too young to fend for themselves when their mothers died. One juvenile tiger was presumed dead after being photographed with severe injuries from a deer snare. The remaining young lived long enough to reach dispersal age, 2 of them becoming residents in the study area.[55]

Hunting and diet

A tiger attacking a Sambar deer in Ranthambore
Male tiger and mugger crocodile at Rajbaugh, Ranthambhore

The tiger is a carnivore. It prefers hunting large ungulates such as chitalsambargaur, and to a lesser extent also barasinghawater buffalonilgaiserow and takin. Among the medium-sized prey species it frequently kills wild boar, and occasionally hog deermuntjac and grey langur. Small prey species such as porcupinehares and peafowl form a very small part in its diet. Because of the encroachment of humans into tiger habitat, it also preys on domestic livestock.[56][57][58][59][60]

They rarely attack adult Indian elephant and Indian rhinoceros, but such extraordinarily rare events have been recorded.[2] In Kaziranga National Park, tigers killed 20 rhinoceros in 2007.[61] In the Sundarbans, venomous snakeshave been found in the bellies of tigers.[14]

Results of scat analyses indicate that the tigers in Nagarahole National Park preferred prey weighing more than 176 kg (388 lb) and that on average tiger prey weighed 91.5 kg (202 lb). The prey species included chital, sambar, wild pig and gaur. Gaur remains were found in 44.8% of all tiger scat samples, sambar remains in 28.6%, wild pig remains in 14.3% and chital remains in 10.4% of all scat samples.[62] In Bandipur National Park, gaur and sambar together also constituted 73% of tiger diet.[57]

In most cases, tigers approach their victim from the side or behind from as close a distance as possible and grasp the prey’s throat to kill it. Then they drag the carcass into cover, occasionally over several hundred meters, to consume it. The nature of the tiger’s hunting method and prey availability results in a “feast or famine” feeding style: they often consume 18–40 kilograms (40–88 lb) of meat at one time.[2] If injured, old or weak, or regular prey species are becoming scarce, tigers also attack humans and become man-eaters.[63]


Bengal tigers occasionally hunt and kill predators such as Indian leopardIndian wolfIndian jackalfoxmugger crocodileAsiatic black bearsloth bear, and dhole.[2]

Captive Asiatic lion and tigers at Bannerghatta National Park.[64] India is currently the only country with wild populations of both tiger and lion.[11]

Clashes between tigers and Asiatic lions have been reported, before humans extirpated either of them in a number of places.[65][66] Currently, the Asiatic lion occurs in Gir Forest National ParkGujarat.[67] The closest Bengal tiger population lives at the border triangle of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.[36] The Gir Forest is in the same ecoregion as Ranthambore and Sariska National Parks: the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests.[11][36][68] The Dangs’ Forest in southeastern Gujarat is potential tiger habitat.[4] Before Indian independence, the Maharaja of Gwalior State introduced African lions in Madhya Pradesh.[4]

Reproduction and lifecycle

A male and female interact with each other in Karnataka, India

The tiger in India has no definite mating and birth seasons. Most young are born in December and April.[27] Young have also been found in March, May, October and November.[69] In the 1960s, certain aspects of tiger behaviour at Kanha National Park indicated that the peak of sexual activity was from November to about February, with some mating probably occurring throughout the year.[70]

Males reach maturity at 4–5 years of age, and females at 3–4 years. A Bengal comes into heat at intervals of about 3–9 weeks, and is receptive for 3–6 days. After a gestation period of 104–106 days, 1–4 cubs are born in a shelter situated in tall grass, thick bush or in caves. Newborn cubs weigh 780 to 1,600 g (1.72 to 3.53 lb) and they have a thick wooly fur that is shed after 3.5–5 months. Their eyes and ears are closed. Their milk teeth start to erupt at about 2–3 weeks after birth, and are slowly replaced by permanent dentition from 8.5–9.5 weeks of age onwards. They suckle for 3–6 months, and begin to eat small amounts of solid food at about 2 months of age. At this time, they follow their mother on her hunting expeditions and begin to take part in hunting at 5–6 months of age. At the age of 2–3 years, they slowly start to separate from the family group and become transient — looking out for an area, where they can establish their own territory. Young males move further away from their mother’s territory than young females. Once the family group has split, the mother comes into heat again.[2]


Over the past century tiger numbers have fallen dramatically, with a decreasing population trend. None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within the Bengal tiger range is large enough to support an effective population size of 250 individuals. Habitat losses and the extremely large-scale incidences of poaching are serious threats to the species’ survival.[1]

The challenge in the Western Ghats forest complex in western South India, an area of 14,400 square miles (37,000 km2) stretching across several protected areas is that people live within its borders. The Save the Tiger Fund Council estimates that 7,500 landless people live illegally inside the boundaries of the 386-square-mile (1,000 km2Nagarhole National Park in southwestern India. A voluntary if controversial resettlement is underway with the aid of the Karnataka Tiger Conservation Project led by K. Ullas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society.[citation needed]

A 2007 report by UNESCO, “Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage” has stated that an anthropogenic 45-cm rise in sea level, likely by the end of the 21st century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, combined with other forms of anthropogenic stress on the Sundarbans, could lead to the destruction of 75% of the Sundarbans mangroves.[citation needed] The Forest Rights Act passed by the Indian government in 2006 grants some of India’s most impoverished communities the right to own and live in the forests, which likely brings them into conflict with wildlife and under-resourced, under-trained, ill-equipped forest department staff. In the past, evidence showed that humans and tigers cannot co-exist.[71]


A tiger in the area of Mangalore, Karnataka

The most significant immediate threat to the existence of wild tiger populations is the illegal trade in poached skins and body parts between India, Nepal and China. The governments of these countries have failed to implement adequate enforcement response, and wildlife crime remained a low priority in terms of political commitment and investment for years. There are well-organised gangs of professional poachers, who move from place to place and set up camp in vulnerable areas. Skins are rough-cured in the field and handed over to dealers, who send them for further treatment to Indian tanning centres. Buyers choose the skins from dealers or tanneries and smuggle them through a complex interlinking network to markets outside India, mainly in China. Other factors contributing to their loss are urbanization and revenge killing. Farmers blame tigers for killing cattle and shoot them. Their skins and body parts may however become a part of the illegal trade.[72] In Bangladesh, tigers are killed by professional poachers, local hunters, trappers, pirates and villagers. Each group of people has different motives for killing tigers, ranging from profit, excitement to safety concerns. All groups have access to the commercial trade in body parts.[73][74]

The illicit demand for bones and body parts from wild tigers for use in Traditional Chinese medicine is the reason for the unrelenting poaching pressure on tigers on the Indian subcontinent. For at least a thousand years, tiger bones have been an ingredient in traditional medicines that are prescribed as a muscle strengthener and treatment for rheumatism and body pain.[75]

Between 1994 and 2009, the Wildlife Protection Society of India has documented 893 cases of tigers killed in India, which is just a fraction of the actual poaching and trade in tiger parts during those years.[76]

In 2006, India’s Sariska Tiger Reserve lost all of its 26 tigers, mostly to poaching.[77] In 2007, police in Allahabad raided a meeting of suspected poachers, traders and couriers. One of the arrested persons was the biggest buyer of tiger parts in India who used to sell them off to the Chinese traditional medicinal market, using women from a nomadic tribe as couriers.[78] In 2009, none of the 24 tigers residing in the Panna Tiger Reserve were left because of excessive poaching.[79]

In November 2011, two tigers were found dead in Maharashtra: a male tiger was trapped and killed in a wire snare; a tigress died of electrocution after chewing at an electric cable supplying power to a water pump; another tigress was found dead in Kanha Tiger Reserve landscape — poisoning is suspected to be the cause of her death.[80]

Human–tiger conflict

The Indian subcontinent has served as a stage for intense human and tiger confrontations. The region affording habitat where tigers have achieved their highest densities is also one which has housed one of the most concentrated and rapidly expanding human populations. At the beginning of the 19th century tigers were so numerous it seemed to be a question as to whether man or tiger would survive. It became the official policy to encourage the killing of tigers as rapidly as possible, rewards being paid for their destruction in many localities. The United Provinces supported large numbers of tigers in the submontane Terai region, where man-eating had been uncommon. In the latter half of the 19th century, marauding tigers began to take a toll of human life. These animals were pushed into marginal habitat, where tigers had formerly not been known, or where they existed only in very low density, by an expanding population of more vigorous animals that occupied the prime habitat in the lowlands, where there was high prey density and good habitat for reproduction. The dispersers had nowhere else to go, since the prime habitat was bordered in the south by cultivation. They are thought to have followed back the herds of domestic livestock that wintered in the plains when they returned to the hills in the spring, and then being left without prey when the herds dispersed back to their respective villages. These tigers were the old, the young and the disabled. All suffered from some disability, mainly caused either by gunshot wounds or porcupine quills.[81]

In the Sundarbans, 10 out of 13 man-eaters recorded in the 1970s were males, and they accounted for 86% of the victims. These man-eaters have been grouped into the confirmed or dedicated ones who go hunting especially for human prey; and the opportunistic ones, who do not search for humans but will, if they encounter a man, attack, kill and devour him. In areas where opportunistic man-eaters were found, the killing of humans was correlated with their availability, most victims being claimed during the honey gathering season.[82]Tigers in the Sunderbans presumably attacked humans who entered their territories in search of wood, honey or fish, thus causing them to defend their territories. The number of tiger attacks on humans may be higher outside suitable areas for tigers, where numerous humans are present but which contain little wild prey for tigers.[83] Between 1999 and 2001, the highest concentration of tiger attacks on people occurred in the northern and western boundaries of the Bangladesh Sundarbans. Most people were attacked in the mornings while collecting fuel wood, timber, or other raw materials, or while fishing.[84]

In Nepal, the incidence of man-eating tigers has been only sporadic. In Chitwan National Park no cases were recorded before 1980. In the following few years, 13 people have been killed and eaten in the park and its environs. In the majority of cases, man-eating appeared to have been related to an intra-specific competition among male tigers.[81]

In December 2012, a tiger was shot by the Kerala Forest Department on a coffee plantation on the fringes of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala ordered the hunt for the animal after mass protests erupted as the tiger had been carrying away livestock. The Forest Department had constituted a special task force to capture the animal with the assistance of a 10-member Special Tiger Protection Force and two trained elephants from the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.[85][86]

Conservation efforts

An area of special interest lies in the “Terai Arc Landscape” in the Himalayan foothills of northern India and southern Nepal, where 11 protected areas composed of dry forest foothills and tall-grass savannas harbor tigers in a 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) landscape. The goals are to manage tigers as a single metapopulation, the dispersal of which between core refuges can help maintain genetic, demographic, and ecological integrity, and to ensure that species and habitat conservation becomes mainstreamed into the rural development agenda. In Nepal a community-based tourism model has been developed with a strong emphasis on sharing benefits with local people and on the regeneration of degraded forests. The approach has been successful in reducing poaching, restoring habitats, and creating a local constituency for conservation.[87]

WWF partnered with Leonardo DiCaprio to form a global campaign, “Save Tigers Now”, with the ambitious goal of building political, financial and public support to double the wild tiger population by 2022.[88] Save Tigers Now started its campaign in 12 different WWF Tiger priority landscapes, since May 2010.[89]

In India

In 1973, Project Tiger was launched aiming at ensuring a viable tiger population in the country and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage for the people. The project’s task force visualised these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would disperse to adjacent forests. The selection of areas for the reserves represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the tiger’s distribution in the country. Funds and commitment were mustered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project. By the late 1980s, the initial nine reserves covering an area of 9,115 square kilometres (3,519 sq mi) had been increased to 15 reserves covering an area of 24,700 square kilometres (9,500 sq mi). More than 1100 tigers were estimated to inhabit the reserves by 1984.[90][91]

Through this initiative the population decline was reversed initially, but has resumed in recent years; India’s tiger population decreased from 3,642 in the 1990s to just over 1,400 from 2002 to 2008.[92]

The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 enables government agencies to take strict measures so as to ensure the conservation of the Bengal tigers. The Wildlife Institute of India estimates showed that tiger numbers had fallen in Madhya Pradesh by 61%, Maharashtra by 57%, and Rajasthan by 40%. The government’s first tiger census, conducted under the Project Tiger initiative begun in 1973, counted 1,827 tigers in the country that year. Using that methodology, the government observed a steady population increase, reaching 3,700 tigers in 2002. However, the use of more reliable and independent censusing technology (including camera traps) for the 2007–2008 all-India census has shown that the numbers were in fact less than half than originally claimed by the Forest Department.[93]

Following the revelation that only 1,411 Bengal tigers existed in the wild in India, down from 3,600 in 2003, the Indian government set up eight new tiger reserves.[94] Because of dwindling tiger numbers, the Indian government has pledged US$153 million to further fund the Project Tiger initiative, set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers, and fund the relocation of up to 200,000 villagers to minimize human-tiger interaction.[95] Tiger scientists in India, such as Raghu Chundawat and Ullas Karanth have called for use of technology in the conservation efforts.[96]

George Schaller wrote:[97]

India has to decide whether it wants to keep the tiger or not. It has to decide if it is worthwhile to keep its National Symbol, its icon, representing wildlife. It has to decide if it wants to keep its natural heritage for future generations, a heritage more important than the cultural one, whether we speak of its temples, the Taj Mahal, or others, because once destroyed it cannot be replaced.

In January 2008, the Government of India launched a dedicated anti-poaching force composed of experts from Indian police, forest officials and various other environmental agencies.[98] Indian officials successfully started a project to reintroduce the tigers into the Sariska reserve.[99] The Ranthambore National Park is often cited as a major success by Indian officials against poaching.[100] The population increased to 1,706 in 2011 and 2,226 in 2014.[101] There are 48[102] tiger reserves in India[103]

Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh was supposed receive Asiatic lions from Gujarat. Since no lion has been transferred from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh so far, it may be used as a sanctuary for the tiger instead.[104][105]

In Bangladesh

WildTeam is working with local communities and the Bangladesh Forest Department to reduce human-tiger conflict in the Bangladesh Sundarbans. For over 100 years people, tigers, and livestock have been injured and killed in the conflict; in recent decades up to 50 people, 80 livestock, and 3 tigers have been killed in a year. Now, through WildTeam’s work, there is a boat-based Tiger Response team that provides first aid, transport, and body retrieval support for people being killed in the forest by tigers. WildTeam has also set up 49 volunteer Village Response Teams that are trained to save tigers that have strayed into the village areas and would be otherwise killed. These village teams are made up of over 350 volunteers, who are also now supporting anti-poaching work and conservation education/awareness activities. WildTeam also works to empower local communities to access the government funds for compensating the loss/injury of livestock and people from the conflict. To monitor the conflict and assess the effectiveness of actions, WildTeam have also set up a human-tiger conflict data collection and reporting system.

In Nepal

The government aims at doubling the country’s tiger population by 2022, and in May 2010, decided to establish Banke National Park with a protected area of 550 square kilometres (210 sq mi), which bears good potential for tiger habitat.[106] It is protected in Chitwan National ParkBardiya National ParkSukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, etc.

Ex situ

A captive tiger in Bannerghatta National Park
File:Panthera tigris1.ogv

Bengal tigers have been captive bred since 1880 and widely crossed with other tiger subspecies.[107] Indian zoos have bred tigers for the first time at the Alipore Zoo in Kolkata. The 1997 International Tiger Studbook lists the global captive population of Bengal tigers at 210 individuals that are all kept in Indian zoos, except for one female in North America. Completion of the Indian Bengal Tiger Studbook is a necessary prerequisite to establishing a captive management program for tigers in India.[108]

Admixed genetic heritage

In July 1976, Billy Arjan Singh acquired a hand-reared tigress named Tara from Twycross Zoo in the United Kingdom, and reintroduced her to the wild in Dudhwa National Park with the permission of India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.[109] In the 1990s, some tigers from this area were observed to have the typical appearance of Siberian tigers, namely a large head, pale fur, white complexion, and wide stripes, and were suspected to be Siberian–Bengal tiger hybrids. Billy Arjan Singh sent hair samples of tigers from the national park to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad where the samples were analysed using mitochondrial sequence analysis. Results revealed that the tigers in question had an Indian tiger mitochondrial haplotype indicating that their mother was an Indian tiger.[110] Skin, hair and blood samples from 71 tigers collected in various Indian zoos, in the National Museum in Kolkata and including two samples from Dudhwa National Park were prepared for microsatellite analysis that revealed that two tigers had alleles in two loci contributed by Bengal and Siberian tiger subspecies.[111] However, samples of two hybrid specimens constituted a too small sample base to conclusively assume that Tara was the source of the Siberian tiger genes.[112]

“Re-wilding” project in South Africa

In 2000, the Bengal tiger re-wilding project Tiger Canyons was started by John Varty, who together with the zoologist Dave Salmoni trained captive-bred tiger cubs how to stalk, hunt, associate hunting with food and regain their predatory instincts. They claimed that once the tigers proved that they can sustain themselves in the wild, they would be released into a free-range sanctuary of South Africa to fend for themselves.[113]

The project has received controversy after accusations by their investors and conservationists of manipulating the behaviour of the tigers for the purpose of a film production, Living with Tigers, with the tigers believed to be unable to hunt.[114][115] Stuart Bray, who had originally invested a large sum of money in the project, claimed that he and his wife, Li Quan, watched the film crew “[chase] the prey up against the fence and into the path of the tigers just for the sake of dramatic footage.”[114][115]

The four tigers involved in this project have been confirmed to be crossbred Siberian–Bengal tigers, which should neither be used for breeding nor being released into the Karoo. Tigers that are not genetically pure will not be able to participate in the tiger Species Survival Plan, as they are not used for breeding, and are not allowed to be released into the wild.[116]

In the United States of America

A white tiger at the Cougar Mountain ZooIssaquah, Washington

In October 2011, 18 Bengal tigers were among the exotic animals shot by the local sheriff’s department after the 2011 Ohio exotic animal release