The waiting game is over. For two whole months Ranthambhore’s tiger royalty kept the world on tenterhooks. The big question on everyone’s mind was just how many cubs had Unnis had?
Her last litter was three. Would she have more or less this time? He bulging udders and tired demeanour over the last month suggested the tiny brood was keeping her busy, but today we know just how busy. Four mouths busy!
At about 7 weeks old, now able to trot behind their mother, Unnis decided it was time to move her brood to a new home, and so she set off with her litter in tow, always watching, always wary, but leading the way, while her cubs tired visibly behind her.
Unnis, often called Krishna now, is an experienced mother who has been down the motherhood route before. She brought up her last three cubs to adulthood (Chanda T63, Aakash T64 and Suraj T65) in a less visited part of the park, while her sister Satra (T17)played the fairy princess in and around the lotus covered lakes and ruined palaces of her well visited kingdom. Sadly Satra’s love tryst’s with her two jealous guardians, the mighty Satara (T28 or Star male) and neighbouring Dollar (T24) sadly ended in her leg injury and eventual disappearance, and it was into this empty realm, now bereft of her sister, which Unnis boldly stepped and claimed as her own in the early summer of 2013.
Exactly who the cubs’ father is, it is impossible to tell without DNA analysis, as she flirted outrageously with both Dollar and his rival Satara, but given she now lives in the realm of Satara, he must believe they are his progeny. Her survival and that of her young family depend on this dodgy conviction.
This morning, as the summer sun’s rays began to cast their warmth upon the ever drying ground, her young family reached the Rajbagh water’s edge. Without hesitation she transported each one-by-one with her soft mouth by their loose neck fur across the shallow lake to the other side, where they watched patiently under the eye of her oldest son Aakash (T64) , while the whole family were so gently whisked across the waters and could continue to where their mother was so keen to resettle her family.
Unnis feels that her birthing den’s security had been compromised by a leopard nearby, and was no longer suitable protection for her now adventurous brood, but a new home was soon occupied and made fit for purpose. It’s upon a mother’s keen instincts that a cub’s survival depends.
Written by the editor with Hemraj Meena providing photos and story
Credits: Tiger Nation