Appearance and Physical Characteristics
Though slim and elegant, tigers are immensely powerful. Their front legs and paws are tremendously strong: they can kill young elephants and rhino and drag prey weighing 200 kg. (5001 bs.) Or more. Tigers walk on the fore pads of their feet, which gives their stride suppleness and elasticity. They have flexible forelegs that can twist inwards, allowing them to grasp prey. Their claws remain retracted until they are needed in the final moments of attack.
Sight and Smell
Tigers are famed for their glowing amber eyes. Unlike most other cats, they have round pupils. Tigers have acute eyesight and the cells in their eyes are sensitive to color. They can perceive depth because their eyes face forwards, thus allowing direction and distance to be judged with extreme accuracy. Tigers, like all cats, have a special adaptation that gives them excellent night vision: a membrane at the back of the eye reflects light through the light sensitive cells of the retina. This effectively doubles the intensity of dim light. The same principal is used in the "cats' eyes" on our roads.
Scent forms the basis for territorial behavior. Tigers keep track of each other's movements by scent marking, which helps them to avoid conflict. To make the best use of information contained in a scent mark, the tiger has to hang out its tongue and draw back the lips, causing the eyes to close. This is called the flehmen response and it allows the tiger to pass the scent through two small holes in the upper palate behind the incisors in effect the tiger can "test" he scent. To human eyes, the expression looks like a grimace of disgust.
Why Tiger Conservation?
Tigers occupy the pinnacle of the food chain and a healthy tiger population is an indicator of the well being of the whole forest. Throughout evolution, predators have had a regulatory influence on the population sizes of other species; it is thanks to carnivores, such as tigers, that the number of herbivores is kept in check. In turn, the populations can therefore only fluctuate between certain limits because of this "feedback mechanism".