Vijaya is a young mother to watch. Now caring for three young cubs, her name suggests it came at a steep price. Vijaya means ‘victory’ in Hindi; a name she has earned through fierce territorial fights, the end of one being the gruesome death of a beautiful tigress named Lakshmi, whose food-rich jungles she wanted for herself. She still bears the scars on her face.
Now settling into motherhood, few will dare challenge this female champion over the coming year.
Follow Vijaya on Tiger Nation as she brings up her cubs. Can she steer them to adulthood against fierce adversaries?
Her father, Shaki, had dominated the park’s best-known visitor zone for a decade, and her grandfather, suitably nicknamed ‘Charger’, had a habit of scaring the wits out of visitors and elephants alike with fake charges. Vijaya herself therefore was never likely to be a wallflower.
Her mother Durga (often called the Jhurhara female), was different. She liked to stay invisible whenever possible, keeping her cubs well hidden and moving around at the ends of day to avoid prying eyes; a characteristic she imparted to Vijaya.
As she grew up in the area of the Rajbehra dam and Climber Point, she was often seen in the company of her mother. In the winter of 2009, she was increasingly seen hunting with her sister, Jaya, and as the monsoons came and went, the three siblings were often seen coming together over a fresh kill. But it was noticeable that her brother and Jaya had some command over her.
Increasingly, however, her shyness evaporated and she became settled with the visitors who drove around her home in Ghiraiya and the hills of the Badhaini.
Her mother Durga, by now had had a second litter with another male (Shaki), and a real treat was a glimpse of her, her three new cubs and her three grown youngsters all together in the Rajbehra pool or meadows.
By the winter of 2010 it was time for Vijaya to lay claim to her own territory and she did this by pushing an ageing tigress, Pyari to the edge of her territory, before finally vanquishing her altogether to the nearby Khitauli range. With her hands on some of the park’s finest hunting grounds, including the Barua Nallah, Chakradhara and Sidh Baba areas, she had also acquired a taste for sambhar deer (especially very large ones), proving her great hunting skill, and a knack for ambush, in the bamboo groves these deer tend to favour.
However in November 2010, unperturbed, she started to mark her new real-estate with short urine burst across her aunt’s territory, a beautiful female called Lakshmi. This was a serious challenge and the forest around Chorbera erupted in continual disputes over the coming months: heard and often watched by the elephant patrols and visitors. This was potentially a dangerous internecine conflict.
It’s thought that the policy of giving Lakshmi cows to eat was not without risk, as Vijaya began to envy these ‘easy’ meals. Few tigers can resist free food, given the ongoing difficulty of hunting in a jungle whose other wary occupants give them away at every opportunity – with alarm calls that reverberate across the park.
Vijaya’s prize was now the prized habitat of Lakshmi’s, at the northern base of the great fort, and north towards Tala. Her confidence rose even further, even though her wounds had still not recovered fully, and it became clear that she could no longer see through her damaged left eye.
These Life stories have been brought to you by Kay and Satyendra Tiwari, and involved twenty five years of passion, note taking and intelligence while living on the borders of Bandhavgarh Reserve. Read their blogs and diaries here.
Credits: Tiger Nation.