TigerTigers are the largest members of the world’s family of big cats.  Although for centuries they lived, more or less, harmoniously with humans-attacks were sparse-the past century saw mankind encroaching deeper and deeper into tiger territory setting the stage for unfortunate confrontations.  The following article is an array of facts about tigers as well as why and when they attack.

An adult male tiger can weigh about five hundred pounds and grow to be ten feet long.  A female generally weighs about three hundred pounds and grows to nine feet long.

Until the 1900s, it is believed that upwards of 100,000 tigers existed in Asia that included eight different breeds of tigers.  Today, only five of those breeds exist: Bengal, Siberian, South Chinese, Sumatran and Indo-Chinese.  The Caspian, Javan and Balinese breeds are extinct.

Today, only five to seven thousand tigers exist in the wild.  Typically, wild tigers can exist for about fifteen years.

Experts believe that tigers attack for any or all of these reasons: to obtain food, to defend or lay claim to new territory or to protect their young.

Tigers are carnivores-meat-eaters.  Their diet is usually comprised of deer, elk, antelope and wild boar.  Due to the near proximity of human civilization in some tiger territories, humans have also made the menu.

When tigers attack, they generally use their heavy jaws and sharp teeth to bite an animal’s throat and break the neck.  It may take anywhere from a couple hours or even a leisurely dining of days to devour the prey. 

It is believed that a continual loss of natural habitat and illegal hunting have played a major role in increasing tiger attacks on humans.

Another factor that brings tigers closer to human settlements is the loss of their natural prey.  Hunters kill typical tiger prey forcing the cats to find cattle, chickens and even people to satisfy their hunger.

A tigress is a fearful protector of her young which is another reason she will attack.  Female tigers are excellent mothers-feeding her young first before herself and going hungry if there is not enough food to go around.

While most tigers do not eat humans, there is an increasing incidence of man-eating tigers in several parts of Asia.  In 1999, Sumatran  tigers killed and ate at least nine people in southern Indonesia in the area of Lampung.

Once a tiger has discovered a taste for human flesh, the typical solution is to have it killed.  After several fatal attacks on humans, Russia developed a tiger task force to track and kill man-eating tigers.

One particularly gruesome attack on a Russian hunter involved a female tiger that bit off his head; the man crawled forty feet in the snow before bleeding to death. 

The largest population of man-eating tigers is in the Sundarbans-a forest area between India and Bangladesh.  Roughly five hundred tigers live in this region.  Although no humans live there, it is a popular area for fishing and gathering both honey and firewood.

Over the past twenty-five years Sundarbans tigers have killed and eaten more than eight hundred humans. 

No one is precisely sure why there are so many man-eating tigers in the Sundarbans region.  Forest workers have begun to wire clay figures with electricity thinking that if tigers are continually shocked when attacking “human-figures” they will develop an aversion for people.

Villagers claim that Sundarbans tigers can swim out to fishing boats and even leap aboard soundlessly and attack.

Tigers in captivity-sanctuaries and zoos–will also attack when frightened as well. 

Until more is done to protect tigers’ natural habitat in the wild, attacks may very well continue as human populations increasing encroach onto tiger lands.