Do Bengal tigers attack humans?

This is a well asked question. And obviously Bengal tigers do attack humans sometimes when they come into conflict with humans because they've been forced into conflict by humans. The Sundarbans, a vast delta which straddles India and Bangladesh, is the place where Bengal tigers most often come into conflict with people and these are people who work in this delta. Essentially there are too many people to accommodate the space required by the Bengal tiger. They require vast ranges of many square miles.

Big male Bengal tiger saunters across road ignoring the motorcyclist and passenger. Photo: Twitter.

However, Jim Corbett who has a tiger reserve named after him and who was a big game hunter turned conservationist many years ago, said that tigers have quite a nice disposition. He should know because he shot lots of them and he was a renowned expert on tigers. What he is essentially saying is that tigers have quite a nice character and are not inherently aggressive except when they need to hunt prey to eat. There is a time and a place to be aggressive and the picture that you see on this page strongly indicates to me that the Bengal tiger has (1) become habituated to tourists in some of India's tiger reserves and (2) they don't attack humans normally and the humans know this.

That is why the motorcyclist and his passenger calmly wait for the tiger to cross the road and go about his business. Apparently this is a male tiger but he looks overweight to me. I wondered whether tourists are chucking treats at the tigers but I'm being flippant. It certainly does not look as though this tiger is short of animals to hunt, however. Perhaps he is quite old. In fact, I think that is why he looks a little bit overweight. He's got a pot belly. The big cats do develop bellies like this when they get older. However, I'm reminded of captive big cats when I see the body shape of this one.

Perhaps the park administrators are providing food for the tiger. I don't know and I'm just speculating. But the point of the article and in answer to the question in the title, Bengal tigers have been known to attack humans but the human is not a classic prey animal for the tiger so they don't go out of their way to chase humans. The picture confirms it. If they were known to prey on humans as a matter of course you would not get a picture like this. And I don't think that this picture is photoshopped either. It looks genuine to me because I've seen other photographs of a similar type with tourists very nearby looking at tigers. 

Incidentally, tigers are hard to see even in the reserves and indeed in some reserves there are no tigers left. If you are booking a holiday to see tigers at an Indian reserve just make sure that they do have some tigers!

You may wonder why the tiger has such bright stripes. How can this be camouflage? It is camouflage because the animals upon which the tiger prey do not see the bright orange colour because they are partially colourblind. They see a muddy brownish colour and the stripes are very effective in dappled sunlight in undergrowth, in forests, places where the tiger likes to live.


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