It’s the golden hour of light, just before the sun starts to fade and drop in that glowing red/orange light under the horizon. The air is still and all senses are straining to hear movement amongst the swaying bamboo clumps, or footfalls on the autumnal swatch of Sal leaves strewn across the forest floor. It’s Tiger Time!
A distant Chital call covers the still air. Another closer – an expectant hush falls across the track near to the new Tadoba waterhole in Maghdi zone. A sudden, yet slow purposeful movement and Jaya, the Rajbehra female strides effortlessly, muscles rippling with purpose out of the shadows of the Bamboo groves,across the short grass to the recently man made waterhole. The mound of brown banked soil accentuates the burnt orange of her fur and her black and white stripes intermingle with the earth. She crouches, her strong rippling fore quarters dip at the water’s edge, her rear rising up against the soil, tail swishing to the music of the midges, touching her flesh.Her shoulder blades protrude like triangles, supporting her body as the rasping tongue flicks back and forth to quench her insatiable thirst after her morning meal, nestled deep in the Bamboo, behind her.
Moments become minutes as the eyes rove, ever watchful.
She is startled by an unheard sound or perceived threat and she rises and spins around with haste to assess the danger. Reassured she returns to the water and continues to lap at the still water’s edge. Satiated she rises onto all fours, her finely sculptured and muscled body rippling in the last warm rays of sunlight, as the suns starts to dip in the sky. She stretches forwards and pats the water with her left front paw, once twice, thrice, her senses honed to the vibrations and gently places her paw through the liquid surface into its now known depth. Three, Four considered paces and she gently lowers herself through the waters which cover her warm body, giving her comfort and relief from the biting midges.
She looks around, taking in all before her luxuriating in the cool waters, at one with the jungle and Queen of her kingdom – Rajbehra as her forebears were before her.
Credits: Tiger Nation