Summer arrives but tragedy and change continues – By Kay Tiwari

Mahua Flowers - the flowers used for making central India's finest alcoholic nectar - Mahua (c) 2014
Mahua Flowers – the flowers used for making central India’s finest alcoholic nectar – Mahua (c) 2014

It’s now summer in Bandhavgarh. The Mahua is falling and the jungle in flower as the bamboo looses its green shroud and drying leaves litter the forest floor. Though the days remain hot and the night only just a little cooler it is unusually cloudy right now as the unseasonal threat of rain continues to hit central India.

It’s been a tough year so far with Tala unrecognizably quiet regarding its big cats and especially the tigers. Though it still offers all the history of this magical place and the beauty of it’s scenery few are interested in the animal treasures hidden deep away and pure chance to see. The prey base is certainly more settled than last season with little in the way of alarm calls ringing in the hills and the gaur too have calved again but for the visitor the tiger has become an elusive ghost.

Trya takes a long drink (c) Kay Tiwari
Trya takes a long drink (c) Kay Tiwari

It is said both Tulsi the Milchaini female and Jaya the Rajbehra female are about to litter, perhaps they already have. Sightings of these two tigresses have been few this season as they move alone their families either grown and moved out or sadly vanished. Jaya has been the lucky one with all her four surviving to separate and challenge for territory. Trya is seen frequently these days on the edge of her mother’s territory seemingly settling in between the Sukki Pattia tigress and her mother with Ondrila nestled close by too. She’s been seen in the company of several different males including O1 and her brother Johnno but these boys are wandering alone now avoiding conflict with older stronger males that search her out!

For Johnno, Murphy and Crumbie it’s a tough time as little is seen of these three now and it will be interesting where they might pop up next? We are all wondering which tigress has or will take Chakradhara, could it be one of these two sisters or perhaps Nalini has already claimed it? Some have seen a secretive tiger in Chakradhara claimed to be a tigress but Somanshu is also still around and being as elusive as any cat might be. He’s seen in Magdhi too but thought to make his way back to Chakradhara for a bit of peace and safety. Who ever this tiger is it will be a mystery revealed one day, the phantom of Chakradhara will one day be recognized!

As to the new male in Tala, Bamera’s nemesis, he’s hardly ever around let alone seen. It seems he’s done his business and gone home to Kalwah Range or has he? With Tulsi and Jaya pregnant and Wakeeta with cub in Banbehi there seems little reason to remain in Tala these days. Better to follow the young females in Magdhi! Certainly males are seen in Magdhi but neither this new boy known to some as Mangu or Chinkoo here or Jobhi  have been spotted in weeks if not months. At present it’s the two Mahaman brothers now three years old that have taken up the cause and are disturbing life in zone two. Both these boys are seen right up to Sukki Pattia and O2 has even been spotted disturbing the tigress Yoshila though she made short work of throwing him out. O2 is quite a character and has even thought to have tried his luck at mating with Y6 daughter of Yoshila, while O1 spends more time tracking Trya or following his mother Ondrila about around Mahaman.

Ondrila seen recently alone - Sighted evening after 5pm at Sukki Dam in Magdhi zone. Ondrila I9. (c) 2014
Ondrila seen recently alone – Sighted evening after 5pm at Sukki Dam in Magdhi zone. Ondrila I9. (c) 2014

As to Ondrila she’s been spending time with Bamera male, Shashi hidden away in the closed area. She seems content with his company though he still steals her kills and scraps take place. For poor Shashi times are tough but he’s still hanging on in there as seen on a video recently posted on TN facebook! Perhaps Ondrila is carrying his last ditched attempt at fathering cubs though the Khitauli male Tarun or Bheem is also seen crossing to Tala these days and may perhaps father her next litter? For sure Jobhi is not in the area recently and FD workers say the young male O1 was the last to be seen sharing a meal with Shashi, not literally but in the same area and in the knowledge of each other. Shashi is hardly old at approaching eleven so he’s in for more troubles no doubt if he can’t get rid of that terrible limp.

Shashi is not the only aging tiger being challenged for space right now either. Recently Indrani was spotted in Khitauli without cubs sadly (what has happened to them is a mystery?). She had made a cow kill, fully compensated thank goodness, but she is carrying a swollen fore paw which looks quite painful. I have a feeling this is a recurring old injury just as Shashi carries but she seems in control and at 13 years old it will be doubtful she will mother again so can feel content she just has herself to look after. Poor girl she has had a tough time since her partner Shaki/Bhoka’s departure I hope she can live out her old age safely somewhere. As a secretive tigress seeing her is a real treat one of the few old faces left, Tulsi being the next oldest tigress at 11 years of age. It’s sad to see the old faces disappear now this park changes its characters so often due to the sheer pressure for space!

While these old characters struggle it’s been heart warming to see both Yoshila in Magdhi and Haimi in Khitauli doing so well. For Haimi all her three cubs have survived the monsoon of last year and at around 16 months or more are doing really well. This tigress is a wonderful mother considering she has a territory greatly disturbed by villagers, a dream to spot though her cubs are really very shy even at this older age. This must be a product of living around human habitation no doubt. Yoshila has a new litter seen quite often now and growing fast. She has become Indian’s favourite tigress in Bandhavgarh for now as she in fact has the only litter of small cubs around in at present.

The reason for this is the sad news that Wakeeta in Banbehi lost one of her cubs in a snare set for meat poaching and a second has seemingly vanished! So Wakeeta has suffered losses yet again and is moving with just one small cub and though they are sometimes seen she is certainly keeping her diminished family close by her side and well hidden much of the time. If Tala and Bandhavgarh do have the patter of tiny feet echoing in the hills we all may have to wait till next season to glimpse new faces born to Tulsi and Jaya. Let’s hope Bandhavgarh is more settled now and that the continuing deaths are ended. Life goes on but in these beautiful hills it’s been too quiet for comfort and regeneration is greatly needed. It will come we just need to wait and keep our fingers crossed the wars of this big cat world are over, for a few years at least?

Credits: Tiger Nation 


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