Tigers are cunning predators that many cultures idolize and respect. But these iconic big cats aren't born as expert hunters. Over the first several weeks and months of their lives, adorable tiger cubs weighing just a few pounds each must learn what it takes to survive and grow into the forest's most magnificent predator.
In a charming clip from BBC America's new series "Dynasties," four tiger cubs are just beginning to get their feet — or paws — under them. Their clumsy attempts at simply trying to walk make you wonder how these precious furballs will ever become powerful big cats like their mother, Raj Bhera.
The third episode of "Dynasties" airs this Saturday (Feb. 2) at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST on BBC America and highlights the day-to-day lives of Raj Bhera and her family in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, India. [In Photos: Tigers of India's Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve]
Raj Bhera's 7-square-mile (18 square kilometers) territory is a sublime spot, with spring-fed pools and lush meadows that attract plenty of tasty deer to eat; it's any tiger's dream. This is the second litter Raj Bhera has raised in her beautiful home, and according to BBC America, these may be the youngest tiger cubs ever filmed in the wild.
The Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is the largest protected tiger habitat in India (595 square miles or 1,541 square km) and contains the highest density of tigers. More than 80 Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) call the reserve home.
While the tiger population within the reserve is booming, the cats' global population is struggling. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has classified all six remaining subspecies as endangered (three subspecies are already extinct) and estimates that fewer than 3,100 tigers remain in the wild. In fact, there are now more "pet" tigers than there are tigers in the wild. The main threats to the tiger population are habitat loss for residential and commercial development, agriculture, aquaculture, and mining.
Although Bandhavgarh has proven to be a supreme area for tigers, the ones that live there are running out of room, and that's a problem. Tigers are territorial loners; they mostly live by themselves and don't like to share. So, that means the tigers in Bandhavgarh are forced to either fight for an already-occupied territory or venture to the edge of the reserve and enter locations where people live, which aren't great places for the big cats.
At the time of the new series' filming, one of Raj Bhera's grown daughters from her first litter, Solo, set up her own territory next door and encroached on her mother's hunting grounds. Watch this week's episode of "Dynasties" to find out if Solo and Raj Bhera can learn to respect one another's space or if one of these dominant tigresses will be pushed to the edge.
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, BBC America's "Dynasties" gives viewers an up-close-and-personal look into the family lives of five of the most celebrated and endangered animals on the planet. The third episode, "Tiger," premieres Saturday, Feb. 2, on BBC America at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST. Viewers can still watch the first episode, "Lion," for free online.
- Iconic Cats: All 9 Subspecies of Tigers
- Gallery: Tiger Species of the World
- Photos: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals
Originally published on Live Science.
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Kimberly has a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a former reference editor for Live Science and Space.com. Her work has appeared in Inside Science, News from Science, the San Jose Mercury and others. Her favorite stories include those about animals and obscurities. A Texas native, Kim now lives in a California redwood forest.