Wild Animals Found in the Park
The cats are classified according to whether or not they roar. Those that can and do roar (because of the flexible attachment of the larynx) are of the genus Panthera, and the others belong to the genera Felis and Neofelis.
TIGER (Panthera tigris tigris)
The Tiger occupies the apex of the food pyramid and is the animal which captures our imagination the most. Known as the Royal Bengal tiger, this magnificent animal is the largest of all cats and undoubtedly the king of the jungle. To the visitors who pour in from all over the world, the tiger has become a symbol representing the wildlife of Asia.
Fifteen years ago tigers were heading fast towards extinction, and in 1969 they entered the IUCN Red Data Book of Endangered Species. Since then, a monumental effort on an international scale has enabled them to fight back, from the brink of extinction. The key event which set the stage for the recovery was the launch by the World Wildlife Fund in 1972 of Operation Tiger in Nepal, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh. , then, in 1973 under the auspices of His Majestys Government of Nepal, the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, together with the WWF, set up the Nepal Tiger Ecology Project in Chitwan, which used the sophisticated technology of radio telemetry for the first time.
As a result of all these efforts, the Bengal tiger has turned the corner. In Chitwan alone there is an estimated population of about 80, and every indication suggests that numbers have leveled off at saturation point. No less important, a great deal of vital information has been gathered together about tigers and their behavior. Chitwan, with its thick forests, abundant prey, shade and cover, and water is one of the best remaining tiger habitats in the world.
Nocturnal in nature, they hunt alone and mainly under the cover of darkness or in the late afternoon, during the day they prefer to lie up in thick cover where they are unlikely to be disturbed. In the light and shadow of the dense jungle and tall grass which it inhabits, the tigers camouflage is perfect. Its tawny to orange-red coat blends amazingly well with its surroundings, and the pattern of black stripes breaks and confuses its outline, making the animal all but invisible even from close range. All these, and its secretive, elusive nature makes the chances of seeing a tiger during a Park visit of only 2 or 3 days slim.
But, sometimes visitors are lucky and are rewarded with more than just a glimpse. Occasionally, when rounding a bend in a road or trail, they may find one standing, and staring back at them. Unless the tiger is a female with cubs, it will not usually attack. it is more likely to walk calmly away into the grasses or forest undergrowth. Like most nocturnal creatures, tigers have monochromatic vision; and although they may find it hard to see their prey when it freezes, their eyes are nevertheless highly sensitive to any movement.
They occupy specific home ranges, and by gaining familiarity with particular areas they increase their chances of success in hunting. In Chitwan males hold territories of 50-60 square kilometers, each encompassing and overlapping the smaller ones (between 20-25 square kilometers) of several females. Their sex ratio estimated at one male: two to four females. Resident males continually patrol their territories to defend them against intrusion by others and employ visual, vocal and by spraying to indicate their occupancy and not just by its physical presence. While females compete for the best habitats to maintain themselves and to raise their offspring, the males compete for females. By establishing an exclusive territory, a male tiger not only monopolizes mating rights with the tigresses in it but also provides them with the stable conditions which they need to raise his offspring.
LEOPARD (Panthera pardus)
Leopards - also known as panthers - are the number two predators in Chitwan, and their activity patterns are much influenced by the domination presence of the tigers. For instance, they may temporarily move out of an area heavily used by tigers, or become less mobile, or avoid a tigers main thoroughfares. They also tend to be hyper-cautious and do most of their moving by day, when the tigers are least active. Like the tiger, and perhaps even more so, the leopard is a solitary hunter, and unlike the tiger they are can climb trees with amazing speed and agility. Their strength is exceptional and they can drag their kill, often an animal heavier than they are, up into a tree so that it can be consumed without disturbance from other predators or scavengers.
Of the dozen subspecies of leopards recognized in Asia, the Nepalese leopard is regarded as a distinct race. A big male weighs up to 160 lb. and measures over 8 feet from nose-tip to tail-tip. The normal coat color is fulvous-tawny, and the black markings take the form of rosettes that enclose some of the color of the background.
Another factor which encourages leopards in all environments to lead a more diurnal life than tigers is that they are more tolerant of the sun. In daylight their excellent camouflage enables them to blend perfectly with the surroundings, and in stalking prey they can use the barest of cover to deadly advantage. Unlike the tiger they are not exclusively animals of the dense forest, and they have adapted to like in scrub, open country and woodlands, which makes them the most successful members of the genus Panthera.
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