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Reader's Digest World Presents The Living Edens Bhutan, The last Shangri-la
 
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Tiger Tiger
The tiger is a rare jewel in a treasure chest of truly spectacular Indian wildlife. When the ancient Romans set tiger against lion in the coliseum, the tiger invariably won. In some ways, the tiger is the ultimate predator. In Bhutan, the tiger thrives in the dense forest of Royal Manas, on the southern border of India. However, in Bhutan the tiger has left its tracks in the snows of the Himalayas up to 10,000 feet, suggesting the possibility of a subspecies of superior size. This magnificent animal hunts game of all sizes, including elephants (females and young), gaur and buffalo. It preys on deer, wild pig and bear, and will kill and eat panthers and other tigers. Many of the tigers of Royal Manas learn to move in the vicinity of salt licks, where every dawn, many potential prey gather.

The tiger shows powers in most of its senses. Hearing is what the tiger depends most on in its hunting, and it has developed to an amazing degree. It is capable of denoting different species by their footfall alone. Keeping in character, tigers are silent animals that rarely roar. In comparison, a tiger's bulging eyes give it a wide angle view. It may, however, have difficulty in seeing stationary objects; a buffalo calf five meters away might be invisible. Tigers have circular pupils, and are well adapted to night vision. A tiger's sense of smell, on the other hand, is neither well developed nor used enormously in hunting.

In spite of its heavy build, the tiger is endowed with astonishing suppleness of movement. Yet one of the limitations on the tiger's efficiency is its foot physiology: sensitive feet and soft pads. This means that a tiger cannot walk over broken or thorny ground, and therefore a cross country chase is beyond its powers. A tiger also has to be aware of baking hot ground, which will cause its feet blister. A second Tigerlimitation to the tiger's effectiveness is that its formidable power and strength is good for only two springs, after which the prey is safe. Once a tiger makes a kill, it feasts. A tiger can eat up to 20 percent of its own weight in a single meal.

The tigers' solitary way of life has its disadvantages. Apart from not being able to profit from group hunting like lions, when recuperating from injury, a tigress cannot rely on others to bring her food immediately before and after giving birth.

In Asian, there is an active trade of materials of and made from tigers. Tiger bone sells on the streets of Taiwan at $3250 per kilogram, a quarter the price of gold. There are 8 to 10 kilograms of bone per tiger, so a single poached animal can bring in $30,000 from the bones alone. A tiger skins can cost up to $10,000, the equivalent of 10 years of government salary in Indochina. Tiger parts also are sold for their medicinal and spiritual value. Medicines made from tiger brain are thought to cure acne, while a tiger's whiskers can act as a charm for protection and courage.


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