Hunting tigers used to be sport for royalty and the wealthy people of India. But tiger hunts weren’t sporting, because the tigers had little chance to escape. The hunters rode on elephants, while their servants (called beaters) noisily drove the tigers toward the hunters. Over the years, many thousands of tigers were killed this way.

Great prestige was once the reward for killing a tiger. Young Indian princes usually killed their first tiger by the age of 11 or 12. In 1965, one Maharajah reported that his total take of tigers was only 1,150.

Nowadays, fortunately, there is no legal hunting of tigers taking place. It is tigers doing the hunting amid the ruins of Ranthambore–once the royal hunting park for the maharajahs of Jaipur. Ranthambore is one of several former princely hunting preserves that have become national reserves to protect tigers and other wildlife.

If people come into tiger territory riding elephants now, it is because they have come as tourists to visit tigers in their natural habitat. It is not surprising that people admire tigers–they are strong, beautiful, intelligent, graceful, and independent creatures. Ancient Indian legends and sculptures depict the tiger as a symbol of power. In Asia, the tiger has always been “the king of beasts.” Enjoy reading about them in your newest Zoobooks issue!