The Year Of The Tiger
As report after report of dead tigers came in from across India, the Sanctuary team, which has been working over the last three decades to encourage, prod and exhort Indians to protect this mascot of India’s wilderness, felt an unassailable sense of gloom. Tigers have been killed in various pockets around the country. This is not unlike terrorists blasting bombs in different cities and towns to destabilise the country. Poachers are striking every reserve because they are able to and to show that they can. No park is safe now. No tiger is safe now. No animal is safe now.
1. Chase of a Lifetime – SHALIK JOGWE
Every tiger that ever lived has been just about a week away from starvation, each day of its life. This is why it is vital that tiger forests remain secluded from humans and stocked with prey species. In Maharashtra’s Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, animals are forced to congregate at the few remaining perennial water sources in summer. At one such waterhole in Yenbodi, this tiger launched an attack on a gaur Bos gaurus calf, which escaped because its mother successfully managed to keep the tiger at bay.
2. Maternal Care – ADITYA SINGH
Tiger cubs usually stay with their mothers for two years, males leaving before females when they are ready to search for their own territories. This is when they are most likely to stray out of Protected Areas such as Ranthambhore, Nagarahole, Corbett or Periyar, into unprotected fringe forests. Here poachers lie in wait. The need for contiguous, well-connected and tightly-protected tiger landscapes cannot be stressed enough if India is serious about securing and increasing her tiger population.
3. To the Victor the Spoils – ADITYA SINGH
Machli – the famous tigress of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan – fights to keep a younger but much larger male away from her precious sambar kill. Males will often try to steal kills from tigresses and have even been known to kill them over food. Machli’s smaller size explains her submissive posture before the more powerful, standing male.
4. Sparring Cubs – SANTOSH SALIGRAM
Playtime often doubles as schooling for young cubs such as these six to seven month old cubs sparring in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Such dominance rituals are a precursor to their departure from the protective care of their mother. Their lighthearted games actually ready them for adulthood when they will need to hunt prey larger than themselves and protect their territories from competitors.
5. Territorial Imperatives – DEVENDRA SINGH
On reaching maturity, tigers establish and demarcate personal hunting spaces. They regularly patrol their ‘kingdom’ and are fiercely protective of it. The size of the territory depends on the density of the tiger population, which in turn is determined by the availability of prey and, of course, the type of habitat. Seventeen to 20 tigers per 100 sq. km. is about the upper limit, even in the best tiger habitats such as Kaziranga and Bandhavgarh’s Tala range, where this tiger was photographed.
6. Wounded and Watchful – BAIJU PATIL
This magnificent young male tiger in the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh sports a battle wound, probably a result of a territorial skirmish. The key to saving the tiger is to create larger, inviolate forests for young tigers to move into when they separate from their mothers. If we fail to provide this space, we will witness chronicles of tiger deaths foretold from starvation, territorial battles, or in one-sided conflicts with humans.
7. Wild Sex – RAMKI SREENIVASAN
Adult tigers are solitary, except during the mating season when females will brazenly advertise their availability to potential mates by scent-marking vegetation and rocks, occasional moaning, roaring and sometimes producing a kind of sneezing noise called ‘prustening’. The roar of a female tigress in oestrus can be heard several kilometres away and may attract more than one male, often leading to clashes. Courting tigers are noisy and there is considerable aggression involved in the courtship. This courting pair was photographed in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, where they quickly retreated into their green home moments after the image was captured from a vehicle on a forest road.
8. The Striped Water God – SANTOSH SALIGRAM
In tropical forests, temperatures can soar to 450C when tigers will often spend their afternoons cooling off in a forest stream. Tigers once ranged from the Russian Far East, Siberia, and westwards as far as Turkey and southern Asia to the islands of Sumatra, Java and up through Myanmar (Burma) and the Indian subcontinent. Today, perhaps under 3,000 wild tigers are left alive. In India, they have probably lost over 90 per cent of their former range.
9. Que Sera Sera? – BAIJU PATIL
This cub playing on a fallen tree is lucky to be born in the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. It has good chance of reaching adulthood. The tigers of the Panna Tiger Reserve were less fortunate. Tigers live to about 15 years in the wild and a female will birth to a litter roughly every two or three years in her lifetime. Only about 1/3rd of these young tigers will ever live to produce cubs of their own. Our Protected Areas are growing increasingly fragmented and poachers are operating in core areas.
10. Hidden Communication – DHRITIMAN MUKHERJEE
A full-grown male tiger sniffs for possible scent trails of other tigers in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan. Tigers mark their territories by defecating – their anal scent glands leave a pungent odour – and by scratching with their claws – scent glands between their paws also leave an olfactory message on the bark. They also have sebaceous glands on their head, chin, lips, cheeks and whiskers, which are used to mark objects. Tigers will first sniff an area for the presence of other cats before venturing in. Cubs are able to follow their mothers by sniffing the scent trail left by her paws.
Sanctuary Asia Vol XXX No. 2, April 2010.