The Khitauli zone update of Bandhavgarh
Summer has finally begun in Bandhavgarh after months of weekly rains during a long cool winter. Though the temperatures really never dropped that low cloudy skies and moist air have disrupted much of the normal animal behaviour expected as the water pools dry up across the forest tracts. Khitauli itself is normally pretty quiet during the early part of the season as the few tigers that roam the tourist area criss cross within open and closed boundaries. However, much was expected in Khitauli this season with the Damdama female seen mating with Mukunda last summer and he himself generally quite visible and confident as a settled male tiger.
As it turned out this was not to be when the park opened. With water located in every nook and cranny and villagers still grazing their cattle on the edge of the zone, prey is scattered far and wide and disturbance a daily routine for the predators. Some visitors have been lucky and sightings lots when leopard, bear or tiger are spotted but several days have gone by with all but pugmarks and alarm calls to satisfy the eager viewers. Personally the tension and thrill knowing a predator is hardly yards away and has been roaming the very roads and tracks man is treading is magic enough and it is important everyone appreciates the secret nature of animals in their world and so wonder at the final glimpse when it indeed comes.
Haimi. the Damdama tigress is as wonderful as ever when she is seen and displays a calm nature. She’s pretty clever too as it is only recently she has been seen with three cubs at her side having kept the secret of their existence for at least three months! In contrast, news did break in early February that on one occasion a tigress was seen with small cubs literally playing and sitting on the road! The question is now was this Haimi or Indrani as Indrani too has recently been confirmed moving with at least two cubs by her side. It is wonderful news that both visible Khitauli tigresses are supporting new families both most probably fathered by Mukunda.
At one point last month one of the tigresses was spotted with a swollen leg and limping and elephants were sent to investigate. Unable to locate the tigress no one knows which one this was and it is hoped any injury has been resolved. Certainly recent sightings have not indicated any further limp or injury. Cats have an amazing ability to recover and all await a further sighting of both tigresses as summer progresses in order to evaluate ID of all cubs in tow.
The male tigers
For the male tigers of the area information has also been mixed. All thought Mukunda would become the King of Khitauli and show his beautiful young face willingly and often, but he has not been positively identified even moving in the area he occupied last season. In fact it is a new male tiger that has been spotted here and there, a tiger of no clear lineage, an unknown though he is probably Khitauli born or even an Indrani lost boy! This tiger is shy and elusive often slipping away to hide at the sound of vehicles approaching. Even one single vehicle annoys him and it is vital all vehicles entering Khitauli wishing to see the handsome young boy allow him the space and patience to make the first move rather than crowding him and getting too close. If this tiger is to be the new ruler of the Khitauli tourism zone he must be allowed the freedom to settle with as little disturbance as possible.
This male tiger’s presence could be the reason Haimi and Indrani are keeping their cubs carefully hidden much of the time though there has been news that Haimi was indeed seen with her new cubs and a male present. Could this male but the father Mukunda I wonder? Hopefully summer will reveal the answer to this question and his status in Khitauli. Only last year Haimi lost her old mate Mangal and was getting to know Mukunda and now with him an uncertainly she would not want to deal with a third suitor in just twelve months! It seems all three zones in Bandhavgarh are dealing with male uncertainty right now with the presence of as many males as females across the park.
Things will settle but it will take some time; Khitauli does not want to see the death of another tiger family as has happened to Wakeeta this winter when she has lost all four cubs.
Finally, as usual Khitauli offers good deer and antelope spotting with groups of sambar and nilgai the norm and plenty of chital around the Damdama area and visiting the pools dotted on the village edges. Leopard are seen and so too sloth bears at times. Birding is good too with a scops owl nest on view and plenty of woodpeckers active right now. More good news echoes across the forest with a recent sighting of the large Dhole pack (wild dogs) seen moving in the area again as summer temperatures begin to rise and the forest drops its leaves!
Khitauli indeed is offering up its bounty again this summer.
Credits: Tiger Nation