UPDATE : The Tala Zone update – winter 2013/14 by Kay Hassall Tiwari

Tala Zone has never know such disruption and chaos as it has suffered this winter.

After our one eyed tigress Vijaya (Kankati) lost her two cubs last season it was thought quarrels would be settled after the monsoon but we were all were sadly mistaken.

As the season started all seems serene and calm but little did anyone know. Several males roaming Wakeeta’s and Tulsi’s (Banbehi & Milchani) territories would put pay to the tigresses quiet lives and that Chakradhara would be devoid of a resident male tiger resulting in Vijaya being without new cubs still!

Wakeeta’s sadness (Banbehi)
Wakeeta in Bhitri meadow on 20th March (c) 2014
Wakeeta in Bhitri meadow on 20th March (c) 2014

October and November started as normal as temperatures slowly dropped. Wakeeta was spotted with her new family of four small, but now six month old cubs. Sightings were short and infrequent and the cubs appeared a little thin but they were still with their mother and all seemed well. However, it was not long before the female cub of the litter was found dead and then the weaker of the three boys. Starvation was the official report but months later a third healthy fat cub was found dead mutilated by a male tiger and sadly the fourth cub has not been seen since. It would seem marauding and dangerous males were disrupting the peace of the Banbehi mother’s territory.

Pushpraj’s arrogance

The blame for these cubs has been laid squarely on the big boy Pushpraj, the cub’s very own half-brother, a large three year old male that refuses to leave his mother and father’s territory. He was always the more forceful and aloof of the brothers, a loner that often snarled at his calmer brother Kanvar. His nickname has now become Pushy! Not only has he pushed his mother about and is constantly stealing her kills but he has also had a few rounds with his father Shashi. Shashi in these bouts seems to have come off the worst and though he has tried hard to push the boy out Pushy is holding his ground and simply offers a little space climbing the hills to seek refuge while Shashi heads towards the villages and indulges in a cow kill while licking his emotional and physical wounds.

Pushpraj - the dangerous scrounger (c) Satyendra T
Pushpraj – the dangerous scrounger (c) Satyendra T

However Pushpraj’s boldness does not end here. He has not forgotten the fact that he stole a huge sambar kill from Tulsi in Rampur last May and has persistently pestered her too. With her three young twelve month old boys in tow poor Tulsi has also had meals stolen and retreated to the depths of her territory to escape the anger of  this young tiger. For Pushy it seems hunting for himself is too much like hard work when he can have free meals and gain a hold on prime territory and hassle two females too. One is his mother and the other his aunt, but staying to fight is more preferable than running the gauntlet beyond the fencing and the unguarded and unloved forest beyond. And besides as Pushy’s muscles and influence grows moving out into unknown territory beyond his Dad and Mom’s domain is not the right choice.

Shashi’s battleground with his son

Pushpraj’s brother, Kanvar, is nowhere to be seen. Has he disappeared or left?. No one is certain, and honestly would be welcomed back by his brother??  The ramifications of this for his father  Shashi (Bamera male) are also tough. He has returned to his range of Banbehi and Sita Mandap recently after nursing the wounds from his son on the edge of his range.  Can he hold on?  This question will be answered soon for sure. Meanwhile as Wakeeta settles to life alone she can at least eat alone at times with no worries of finding enough for her cubs. Little is seen of her right now though she does make occasional appearances, she’s fine just bidding her time till the men get things sorted and sometimes sharing a table with her rather overbearing son.

Tulsi and her 3 cubs all reunited on 30th Jan. (c) 2014
Tulsi and her 3 cubs all reunited on 30th Jan. (c) 2014
Tulsi’s motherhood (Mirchani female)

For Tulsi things are a little more stressed at present. Her first priority is the safety of her three large sub adult cubs. A kill can hardly feed the family let alone this new addition to the household. She is keeping well away from Pushpraj if she can but having to give in if he turns up on her turf. And he’s not the only male that is pestering Tulsi. Somanshu has risen from the dead (originally declared dead last year) and has been seen annoying her and the family as recently as January and since then a third wandering young male has entered the fray out of Magdhi. For Tulsi the fight has only just begun and the heat of summer races in now. Soon she has to bring her family off the hills as water dries up in the heights so this tigress will have to beware or she too could lose a family to male and food conflict, just as Vijaya did this time last season.

Vijaya’s (Kankati) waiting game

Meanwhile back in Chakradhara Vijaya’s territory is quiet and still. A young male has been spotted but ID has not been possible. However it is thought this male is Somanshu. He has descended from the Fort plateau as a two year old, possibly thrown out by his mother. He is seldom spotted but has turned up as far afield as Hardia and Bhitri and is thought to be the male moving behind Tala village. For Vijaya life is easy. Rahasy has simply vanished, and her lover and guardian Shashi never returned to claim here and her territory, so all she has to do is look after herself nowadays. It is not thought to have fallen pregnant – but rumours abound?   The once highly visible Vijaya is today seldom seen, content instead to wander her territory and enjoy a singleton life – there is plenty of food on her rich table.

Jaya’s success
Three of Jaya's now independent cubs together in March 2013 (c) 2014
Three of Jaya’s now independent cubs together in March 2013 (c) 2014

Finally, there is Jaya (rajbehra female) in Rajbehra though she is as often in Magdhi these days. Her cubs are almost two years old now and mostly independent of their mother. They have grown fit and strong with their mother’s care and attention. Johnno is huge and so too the independent female Crumbie. The four are often seen together on kills provided by mom though all will soon be seeking pastures new. Summer could bring plenty of activity in the meadows and at the waterholes that dot this tigress’s territory now the trees and bamboo drops their leaves and cover thins the dense Sal forest. Jaya is a beautiful calm tigress and we await news of a second pregnancy with baited breathe but will also hope at least some of her first litter youngsters will succeed in their last path to adulthood?

Bandhavgarh’s other life

There have been few leopard sightings though their presence is known and so too sloth bears. Plenty of pugmarks littered the road in December but by New Year all had vanished. Hopefully summer will bring them out to forage and drink.

As to the prey base of Tala zone and in fact the whole park, that seems in question right now with all tigers on occasions feeding on cows but that’s a complicated issue and perhaps one for others to debate.

Mother and her calf from the small Gaur herd now in the Tala zone (c) Kay Hassall Tiwari
Mother and her calf from the small Gaur herd now in the Tala zone (c) Kay Hassall Tiwari

Bringing 50 wild gaur to the park may not have helped provide extra prey as hoped but it has certainly given another species to view in the one small herd that remained in Tala zone as the bulk of 40 cattle headed into the quickly fenced Kulwah range. This season I have had many more gaur sightings than I have had of tigers and that can only be the result of young testosterone fuelled conflict that still rages across the beautiful jungles of the Tala Range of Bandhavgarh.

Credits: Tiger Nation



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