Stories tagged tigers

Feb
26
2009

Montecore mourns the loss of T.I.G.E.R.S.'s innocence
Montecore mourns the loss of T.I.G.E.R.S.'s innocenceCourtesy Esparta
So… in the last month, six people in Sumatra have been killed by tigers.

What are you going to do with that, JGordon? Are you going to turn six awful, grisly deaths into some kind of joke?

Thank you, no. I’m not a jerk. Getting killed by a tiger would be a terrible way to die. And the deaths of six real people aren’t funny… or cool… or whatever you maniacs think.

That’s why we’ll be ignoring the tragedy of this news item, and re-imagining it as an awesome cartoon adventure series—something to fill the void left when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles forgot their roots, or when the Power Rangers all got arrested in that human trafficking sting operation.

And so, allow me to present the T.I.G.E.R.S., Tactical Intervention Gamma: Eco Recovery Strikeforce (You know what? Chill. We can work on the acronym later.)

The T.I.G.E.R.S. are an elite unit of, like, talking tigers. They have been tasked by the Rainforest League to protect the jungles of the world from deforestation. Kong, a wise old silverback gorilla, heads the League.

It’s like Captain Planet, without the creepy blue guy. (Who was he, anyway? The villain?) Isn’t that awesome?

The T.I.G.E.R.S. are:

T-Bone: The crazy one. Dynamite? Oh, this dynamite? (Y’all know what I’m talking about.)

Stripes: The funny one. Think Michelangelo. (Not the original Michelangelo, who gave the world David; the better one, who gave pop culture nunchucks.)

Sheba: The lady tiger. She’s probably good with knives, or something.

Montecore: the smart one. He’s also old. And he’s one of those white tigers, like the one that hugged and kissed Roy into the hospital

And, finally, Tigrus, the leader. He’s really big, and has a tiger-gun (it’s like a regular gun, but with stripes on it.)

I’m thinking that episode 3 of T.I.G.E.R.S. will probably cover this incident. (Episodes 1 and 2 I’m saving for introducing the main villain, that blue guy from Captain Planet.)

I think it will go a little something like this…

The T.I.G.E.R.S. are on a mission in Sumatra, creeping though thick undergrowth.

Tigrus: All right, men-

Sheba: And ladies.

Tigrus: -and ladies. We’re in enemy territory now. Keep your heads down. You all know the mission—we sneak into the logging camp, put sleeping pills into their water barrels, and get out.

Montecore: And the Rainforest League ships the sleeping beauties to Greenland.

Tigrus: Exactly.

T-Bone: I don’t see why we can’t just do it my way—a little T N T, and it’s C U later loggers.

Sheba: No! Nobody gets hurt, remember? And an explosion like that could damage the trees!

T-Bone: Hey, you have to break some eggs to make a good explosion, you know?

Tigrus: T-Bone…

T-Bone: Okay, boss! Take it easy.

Stripes: What’s that noise? It sounds like giant mosquitoes!

Montecore: Those are chainsaws, Stripes.

Stripes: I don’t know... It sounds like mosquitoes to me.

Montecore: No. Those are Husqvarna R-7 long-bar chainsaws.

Stripes: If you say so. But don’t come crawling to me for calamine when you’ve got the world’s biggest bug bite.

Sheba: Oh, Stripes.

Tigrus: Shhh! What’s that sound?

Stripes: I think it’s mosquitoes.

Tigrus: No, Stripes, not that… it sounds like footsteps!

A logger holding a lunchbox walks into the clearing. He is surprised to see the T.I.G.E.R.S. commandos.

Logger (translated from Malay): Hello!

T-Bone: This kitty toy is mine!

Tigrus: T-Bone, no, wait!

It’s too late: T-Bone has already leapt on the man. Screams. Cut to commercials.

Return to show. The T.I.G.E.R.S. are in the same area of the jungle. Montecore is covering his face with his paws, possibly crying. The rest of the team stands around T-Bone, who is covered in blood.

Sheba: T-Bone… what have you done?

T-Bone: I don’t know what happened! He was encroaching on my territory, and instinct just kicked in… I couldn’t stop myself…

T-Bone tries to wipe the blood from his face, but his bloody paws just smear it around.

Tigrus: This is bad. This is really bad.

T-Bone: I… I didn’t have enough space! We’re being forced to compete for resources!

Tigrus: Shut it!

A device strapped to Tigrus’ arm begins to beep

Tigrus: Oh, no! My Rainforest League communicator! It’s Kong!

T-Bone begins to shiver. Monticore is sobbing loudly now. Kong’s voice come’s from the communicator.

Kong: Agent Tigrus? What’s your status?

Tigrus: We… ah… we had to abort the mission, Kong.

Kong: What happened? Is everyone all right?

Sheba begins to answer, but Tigrus holds a paw over her mouth.

Tigrus: We’re all fine, thank Mother Nature. But that blue guy from Captain Planet showed up, and… one of the human loggers was killed.

Kong (angrily): The blue guy! Will his thirst for blood never be sated? This is bad news men… Kong waits for Sheba’s correction, but she can say nothing with Tigrus’ paw still over her mouth. Anyway, you all had better head for the extraction point. Oh, and Tigrus?

Tigrus: Yes sir?

Kong: Don’t worry. We’ll make that blue guy pay for this.

Tigrus: Yes sir. turns off communicator Ok, everybody. Pull yourselves together. We have to get out of here. T-Bone, try to clean yourself off. Stripes… What are you doing Stripes?

Stripes is going through the logger’s fallen lunchbox.

Stripes: I’m just seeing what he brought for dessert!

Everybody (except Montecore, who is still crying): Oh, Stripes…

Cue theme music

Not bad, huh? We have a very tricky situation here: Sumatran tigers, of which perhaps only 400 or so still live in the wild, are losing their habitat to deforestation. Sumatrans, however, are just trying to make a living, and sometimes resort to illegal logging practices. Extensive encroachment into the tigers’ habitat is proving dangerous for everything involved. But I think I handled the issue pretty tastefully, all things considered.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be wherever rich and famous cartoon creators hang out.

Oct
20
2008

Swimming with a tiger: I think it looks like it would really be a spiritual experience.
Swimming with a tiger: I think it looks like it would really be a spiritual experience.Courtesy o205billege
J/K! You can’t! You totally can’t! No swimming with the tigers for you!

Unless, maybe, you’re a young person, and you haven’t yet entered that clammy pipe that empties out into your grave—that is to say a career. Perhaps you could study zoology, or become an animal handler and trainer, maybe then you could swim with those noble man-eaters.

Because some people are swimming with tigers. There might even be a person swimming with a tiger in a warm Florida pool right now, as you read this in your bleak computer lab or parents’ basement.

It turns out that being a huge tank of water with a five hundred pound tiger, the best swimmer of all the large cats, is somehow way easier and less frightening than being on solid ground with a five hundred pound tiger (obviously), and so “The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species” (TIGERS, if you will), near Miami, Florida, has created a special pool for tigers and their handlers to swim in together.

The tigers at TIGERS would usually only go swimming to retrieve chunks of meat thrown by the trainers. The obvious next step, decided the center’s director, was to put the trainers themselves in the pool. Swimming around together should allow the animals to bond better with the handlers (that’s the hope, anyway), and will give the tigers some exercise. A tiger in the water, the TIGERS director points out, is unable to rear up on its hind legs (behavior that can make training difficult). Humans in the water, I’ve noticed, are also unable to rear up on their hind legs. That seems like it could spell trouble.

One side of the 100,000 gallon tiger/human swimming pool is made of glass, so if anything unfortunate does happen, at least the public will be able to see it.

Dec
10
2007

Sort of the opposite here: And I think I might throw up.
Sort of the opposite here: And I think I might throw up.Courtesy Ke Wynn
It’s amazing that we ever get anything done in this world, considering how weird it is.

A zoo in Thailand recently began circulating emails containing photos of a female tiger with a littler of piglets. The tigress, according to the email, was heartbroken over the loss of her own cubs, and accepted the piglets, wrapped in tiger skins, as replacements. She has been watching over them ever since, and, apparently, even nursing them.

That alone would have done it for me. “Wrapped in tiger skins”? I wonder where the tiger skins came from? I mean, what, did they just have a whole bunch of dead baby tigers on hand… oh. And piglets nursing from a tiger? There’s something unsettling about that, especially considering that the tiger is probably going to eat those things eventually (that’s what I’d do, at least).

The story doesn’t end there, however. After a worldwide chorus of “aww”s and “OMG!!!!”s, an animal welfare group decided to investigate the source of the pictures. They originally came from The Sriracha Tiger Zoo, home to over 400 tigers (400 tigers!), as well as a handful of other exotic animals, located about an hour outside of Bangkok.

The tiger in the picture turns out to have been raised by pigs herself (something not entirely uncommon in Thailand, at least according to this article) and therefore saw the piglets as part of her family, even without their sharp little striped jackets. The photos (which can be found using the link above) were apparently part of a publicity stunt by the zoo.

Whether or not putting piglets in jackets and tossing them in a tiger cage constitutes animal cruelty is perhaps debatable, but this isn’t the first time the Sriracha Zoo has received scrutiny for dubious behavior. Along with the circus attached to the zoo (a source of debate in itself), Sriracha has been accused of causing 23 tigers to die of bird flu by feeding them infected chicken carcasses (who would have thought it was possible?), as well as breeding tigers, without a license (a tiger-breeding license?), for export to China, where tigers parts are very valuable as ingredients for traditional medicine (a list of various tiger parts and their uses in traditional medicine can be found here. Kind of interesting).

The zoo denies any wrongdoing, although it seems they may have been better off without the tiger/piglet attention. Delightful.

Rather than trying to evict people from India’s Nagarjuna Sagar national park, rangers are working with villagers, farmers and herders to get them to help protect the forest’s vanishing tigers. By showing the people the importance of the forest to their livelihoods, they take steps to protect is from poachers and wood cutters.

Sep
24
2007

Graphite drawing of Velociraptor sp: Image courtesy Matt Martyniuk via Wikipedia.
Graphite drawing of Velociraptor sp: Image courtesy Matt Martyniuk via Wikipedia.
More questions submitted to one of our featured Scientists on the Spot that were off topic for them to answer, but interestingly have some current news and connections.

Velociraptors don’t have feathers, do they?

Yes, they did. According to an article in the September 21, 2007 journal Science:

Some nonavian theropod dinosaurs were at least partially covered in feathers or filamentous protofeathers. However, a complete understanding of feather distribution among theropod dinosaurs is limited because feathers are typically preserved only in lagerstätten like that of Solnhofen, Germany or Liaoning, China. Such deposits possess clear taphonomic biases toward small-bodied animals, limiting our knowledge regarding feather presence in larger members of feathered clades.

We present direct evidence of feathers in Velociraptor mongoliensis based on the presence of quill knobs on the posterior forearm. In many living birds, raised knobs along the caudal margin of the ulna reveal where the quills of the secondary feathers are anchored to the bone by follicular ligaments. Quill knobs are variably present in extant bird species and are present in only a few basal taxa such as Ichthyornis , so their absence does not necessarily indicate a lack of feathers. Their presence, however, is a direct indicator of feathers of modern aspect (e.g., feathers composed of a rachis and vanes formed by barbs).

So, the theory is currently that they did have feathers, and may have looked something like the image in this article.

While doing some velociraptor-related reading for this question I learned that September is National Velociraptor Awareness Month, co-sponsored by the The American Society for Velociraptor Attack Prevention, the North American Velociraptor Defense Association and the United Velociraptor Widows Fund.

Why are apples good for you?

This question probably comes from the old saying that, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. And while just eating apples won’t by itself “keep the doctor away” it does not hurt either. Apples are a fruit, and like most fruit, it contains nutrients that are good for you, and it is a low calorie snack. Apples are source of both kinds of fiber. The soluble fiber in apples helps to prevent cholesterol buildup and as a result reduces the incident of heart disease, while the insoluble fiber in apples helps cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system. Recent research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of certain cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinsonism.

Speaking of apples now is a perfect time to eat them as they are being harvested. Check out a local apple orchard and try out some of the hundreds of different kinds of apples out there. (My current favorite is the Honey Crisp.) You can even send in suggestions to name a new apple developed by the University of Minnesota!

Current tiger range map in relation to historic distribution: Image courtesy Save the Tiger Fund.
Current tiger range map in relation to historic distribution: Image courtesy Save the Tiger Fund.
Where are there tigers?

Sadly, tiger populations are shrinking. Back in 2006 a study of tiger habitats found that tigers reside in a 40% smaller region then they did 10 years earlier, and currently only occupy 7% of their historic habitat areas. Tigers are found in the wild on the continent of Asia, currently in the countries of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Amur region of far eastern Siberia. You might also be able to see a tiger in your local zoo.

Three species of tigers have already become extinct: the Balinese tiger, the Javan tiger and the Caspian tiger. More information on current tiger populations can be found here.

Sep
15
2006

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Courtesy madcovv
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Courtesy madcovv

I was amazed today when I cracked open my new copy of Harper's Magazine. In the Harper's Index feature I discovered this chilling fact about our dwindling world tiger population. There are about as many tigers living in the wild around the world as there are living as pets in the US?! That's simply absurd. These wild animals were not meant to be domesticated and keeping them as pets won't help grow their numbers in the wild.

However, searching around on this topic did lead me to a rather interesting blog focusing on the issues of conservation, specifically through the lens of finance. They recently highlighted China's unique efforts at tiger conservation, which involve breeding tigers in China and shipping them to a fenced-in preserve in South Africa. But most interestingly this blog focusses on some real world situations that can be solved within our current economic system. According to the blog's author:

Good intentions are not enough. We need business models that are financially, institutionally and technically viable, based on evidence, and provide incentives to encourage biodiversity conservation.

I couldn't agree more, so head on over to the Conservation Finance blog and specifically their posts on wildlife conservation to learn more.

Jan
11
2006

Scientists in Maryland have put together a family tree for cats. Using DNA evidence, they found that the first cats evolved in South East Asia around 11 million years ago. The Panthera genus, which includes lions, tigers and jaguars, evolved first. Various other groups evolved rapidly, with the final group, the ancestor of the domestic house cat, emerging in Africa and Europe about 6.5 million years ago.


Confuse-a-cat: The evolutionary history of cats is quite a head-scratcher!

According to
this blogger,
the interesting thing about this study is that it was done entirely by genetics — by comparing DNA samples. Species with similar DNA are considered to be close relatives. The more traditional way of figuring out evolutionary relationships — by studying fossils — was less helpful in this particular case. Cat fossils look very much alike, and it can be extremely difficult to figure out exactly which species is related to which. Especially in a family like the cats, where the different animals moved around a lot. (According to the study, the ancestors of the cheetah started in South East Asia, moved to North America, and then back to Asia / Africa!)

Just goes to show that evidence for evolution comes from many different sources.

* (Yes, it's another obscure reference to pop songs from Gene's formative years...)