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A good, hearty roar is the tiger sound we know and love. But there's more to roars than what meets the ear. Tigers are largely solitary cats - their low rumbling roars serve as way to mark territory and communicate presence to one another over vast distances of forest. Generally speaking, cats more often communicate by leaving traces of chemical known as pheromones on surfaces by rubbing their glands on it. Roars, however, have evolved alongside their smell as a crucial asset of tiger language. Transmitted at such low frequencies, they travel easily through dense vegetation and can be heard miles away by neighbouring tigers.
Biologists have long presumed feline communication to be rather simple because of their solitary nature: why open your mouth when there's no one to chat to? But any cat owner will know that it isn't just one or two sounds their cat makes - it's more like a thousand! So much is still yet to be understood in the vocal language of cats: tigers can also make a variety of 'grunts' and 'chuffs' when communicating in close proximity. It is likely that the language of tigers is much more complex than we think, but as long as our two species coexist on Earth, their thunderous roar will occupy a special and revered place in our hearts.
Listen one more time to the roar of the king of the jungle above - you can almost feel it through your phone!
In 2021, the Bengal tiger continues to be pushed to the brink by habitat loss and poaching. Once upon a time reigning over endless horizons of forest with plentiful food, tiger populations today exist in fragments, squeezed between one area of developed land and another. This tightening proximity to human activity often results in human-tiger conflicts involving livestock, ones from which the tiger will never benefit but instead be shot or relocated. It is not only tigers that are so often persecuted by neighbouring human communities, but the forest and prey that they depend on as well. Across India, wild deer and boar are over-hunted year after year while old forests continue to be replaced by monocultures such as palm oil plantations. It is these unwavering threats to their habitat which forces Bengal tigers to pursue food from livestock and cause conflict - if their populations are to be restored it is crucial to provide them with healthy forests, however close to human development they may be.
From over one-hundred thousand in 1900 to less than four thousand today, tiger conservation has never been more critically urgent than it is now. One of the gravest threats facing tigers is the demand of more than twenty billion US dollars in wildlife trade they summon. Since the dawn of our first civilizations. tigers have been revered as a symbol of nature's highest power and beauty - their downfall to a traded commodity for the world's wealthy must be confronted and reversed. Social media has quickly become a powerful tool in holding contributors in the illegal tiger trade accountable. With tiger shows, big cat 'sanctuaries', and zoos on the back foot - now is crunch time for turning the tide in the Bengal tiger's favour and keeping its roar rumbling across the forests of Asia.
The Bengal tiger's striking, iconic stripes have remained a hunter's prize for eternity. Beyond poaching for pelts and trophy hunting, the selling of body parts for traditional medicines is still widespread in Asia today. Conservation groups are working with local governments to shut down black market trading and educate consumers about protecting this important species.
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