Episode 278 – Tiger: Specter of the Sundarbans

“…and today we’re talking about the specter of the Sundarbans. But more on that later.”

How can black and orange go unseen

In a place of vertical green?

The world’s most immense panthera

Can hide among the Themeda.

Though it likes meat held up by hooves

You may have a taste it approves.

It’s a gross thought and not so nice,

But please take this piece of advice:

Avoid tiger gastronomy,

In Life, Death, and Taxonomy

Description of the Tiger

  • Giant cat – largest cat, in fact
  • Covered in distinct orange fur with vertical black stripes. Its belly and underside is white.
    • Some are entirely white with black stripes, though they’re almost completely extinct (one in the Miami zoo)
  • Thick body, powerful limbs, long and thin tail
  • Large head with smallish rounded years, impressive mutton chops, and long whiskers
  • The eyes have circular pupils rather than classic cat slit pupils
  • Skull like a lion’s skull – long teeth and a powerful bite strength
    • 150 psi human
    • 1050 psi tiger
    • 650 psi lion
    • 1800 psi hippo
    • 3700 psi – crocodile

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com.


  • 178 to 208 cm (70 to 82 in or 6.8 feet).
  • The largest tiger ever was killed in Manchuria in 1943 and measured 350 cm (140 in), which is 1.7 times the upper end of average.
  • How many tigers go into the longest recorded golf drive?
  • Hint: The longest ever drive was achieved by Carl Cooper in 1992 at the Texas Open. The drive was so long that it put him past the green and earned him a double bogey. In my book, a drive that sails past the hole and into the record books isn’t a bad result. 
  • 347 tigers. The drive was 787 yards (719 meters)


  • Siberian tigers are the largest subspecies at 180 to 306 kg (397 to 675 lb) 
  • How many average house cats go into the weight of a tiger?
  • Hint: Cat weight varies by breed. We talked about Himmy, the heaviest cat ever, in our Wels catfish episode.
  • 67.5 cats. The average house cat is 10 pounds (4.5 kg).

Fast Facts about the Tiger

  • Range: The jungles of Southeast Asia. India, Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Myanmar, China, Russia and Siberia
  • Diet: They mostly eat deer and boars, but they can take down large animals like gaur and water buffalo. However, they’re pretty opportunistic and will kill and eat pretty much anything they can get their paws on like monkeys, birds, rabbits, porcupines, fish, dogs, leopards, bears, snakes, crocodiles, and even young elephants and rhinoceroses.
  • Behavior
    • Tigers are diurnal and have large territories where they hunt and mate of up to 1500 square miles
    • They spend most of their time alone and can travel up to 400 miles within their home range.
    • Young males will either find a swathe of unoccupied land for their territory or will travel through other males’ territories until they can challenge one.
    • They’ll mark their territories with various bodily fluids and will defend it, though they can have complicated relationships with other tigers.
      • They’ll sometimes share their kills, something lions never do
      • They also don’t always flight, but usually settle things with intimidation
      • If a male surrenders, he will usually be allowed to stay in the territory as long as he doesn’t live too close
    • As far as vocalizations, they have their trademark roar that can be heard up to 3 miles away
      • They can also growl, snarl, and hiss. They will chuff when friendly (a mix of snorting and purring)
    • The Champawat Tiger, a tigress found in Nepal and then India, had two broken canines. She was responsible for an estimated 430 human deaths, the most attacks known to be perpetrated by a single wild animal, by the time she was shot in 1907
    • They hunt alone and at night and use their fur pattern to break up their outline when hiding in long grass
    • They ambush their prey and use their sheer mass to ram into them and throw them off balance. 
    • They try to jump onto their prey, knock it over, and latch onto its throat at the same time. Then they’ll just hang on until the prey is strangled.
      • They can run at up to 40 mph, jump as far as 30 ft and weigh as much as 600 lb, so the tiger is really playing to its strength
    • They can also fight with their paws, which can break the skull of a cow or break a sloth bear’s back with a single strike
    • In one situation, a tiger was observed killing a gaur and dragging it into a bush. Later on, 13 grown men couldn’t manage to move the carcass

Major Fact: The Specter of the Sundarbans

Tigers are top predators in the animal kingdom. They are ambush predators, but they will also stalk and follow prey. They will chase down prey and may have better endurance than other cats like lions. So, when an ambush fails, they may still get the meal. 

When prey enters the water, it’s bad news for the escapee. Tigers are at home in the water, and quickly outpace many land dwelling prey species in a swim. 

Tigers mostly eat ungulates, including deer and boar, but they are opportunists that will eat whatever they can kill, including dangerous game like sloth bears and crocodiles. 

They have a hunting success rate between five and 50 percent. That means skilled hunters score a meal one out of every two hunts, which is good because they can eat as much as 90 pounds of meat in a sitting. 

Tigers get their signature look from their hunting environment. They hunt in areas with tall grass and dense vegetation, which creates a lot of vertical lines. A common tree in India is the neem tree which often grows leaves that dangle pointing towards the ground–perfect camouflage for a tiger.

Tiger’s kill using their claws and 3.5 inch canines, but they usually kill things by asphyxiation, clamping down on their prey’s throat. 

This allows tigers to kill things that are bigger than they are, including the water buffalo. They are one of the few predators that can kill an adult water buffalo alone.  

Tigers are also among the few predators that intentionally and regularly hunt humans. Tigers have killed more humans than any other big cat. It’s estimated that they killed an average of 1,800 people per year between 1800 and 2009. 

For the most part man eating tigers are old and desperate or reacting to threats. However, in areas of Asia, including Kumaon, Garhwal, and the Sundarbans, healthy tigers will hunt down human prey. 

The latter is a mangrove swamp that’s known for tiger attacks. If you wander into the forest there, you may become one of the 50 people they kill there each year.

Ending: So work on your chuffing, mark your territory, and always go for the head like Thor, I mean tigers here in LDT.