Vijaya is a young mother to watch. Now caring for three young cubs, her name suggests it came at a steep price. Vijaya means ‘victory’ in Hindi; a name she has earned through fierce territorial fights, the end of one being the gruesome death of a beautiful tigress named Lakshmi, whose food-rich jungles she wanted for herself. She still bears the scars on her face.
Now settling into motherhood, few will dare challenge this female champion over the coming year.
Follow Vijaya on Tiger Nation as she brings up her cubs. Can she steer them to adulthood against fierce adversaries?
Age: 7 years old (adult)
Name Meaning: ‘Victory’ in Hindi
First seen: October 2007
Notable marks: Dark coated. An injury to her face resulted in the loss of her left eye.
Vijaya was born to a mother and father that were to have a huge influence within the golden meadows and dark jungles of Bandhavgarh over the last decade. She is one of three cubs born in the monsoon of 2007, together with Jaya
, a sister and Sahat
, a brother.
Her father, Shaki, had dominated the park’s best-known visitor zone for a decade, and her grandfather, suitably nicknamed ‘Charger’, had a habit of scaring the wits out of visitors and elephants alike with fake charges. Vijaya herself therefore was never likely to be a wallflower.
Her mother Durga (often called the Jhurhara female), was different. She liked to stay invisible whenever possible, keeping her cubs well hidden and moving around at the ends of day to avoid prying eyes; a characteristic she imparted to Vijaya.
As she grew up in the area of the Rajbehra dam and Climber Point, she was often seen in the company of her mother. In the winter of 2009, she was increasingly seen hunting with her sister, Jaya, and as the monsoons came and went, the three siblings were often seen coming together over a fresh kill. But it was noticeable that her brother and Jaya had some command over her.
Increasingly, however, her shyness evaporated and she became settled with the visitors who drove around her home in Ghiraiya and the hills of the Badhaini.
Her mother Durga, by now had had a second litter with another male (Shaki), and a real treat was a glimpse of her, her three new cubs and her three grown youngsters all together in the Rajbehra pool or meadows.
By the winter of 2010 it was time for Vijaya to lay claim to her own territory and she did this by pushing an ageing tigress, Pyari to the edge of her territory, before finally vanquishing her altogether to the nearby Khitauli range. With her hands on some of the park’s finest hunting grounds, including the Barua Nallah, Chakradhara and Sidh Baba areas, she had also acquired a taste for sambhar deer (especially very large ones), proving her great hunting skill, and a knack for ambush, in the bamboo groves these deer tend to favour.
But it seems this wasn’t enough, and her ambition lay in acquiring more territory for herself before starting a family. In mid-October 2010, Vijaya was seen with a nasty wound to her right cheek and muzzle, and we feared she had not only lost her left eye, but might succumb to infection.
However in November 2010, unperturbed, she started to mark her new real-estate with short urine burst across her aunt’s territory, a beautiful female called Lakshmi. This was a serious challenge and the forest around Chorbera erupted in continual disputes over the coming months: heard and often watched by the elephant patrols and visitors. This was potentially a dangerous internecine conflict.
It’s thought that the policy of giving Lakshmi cows to eat was not without risk, as Vijaya began to envy these ‘easy’ meals. Few tigers can resist free food, given the ongoing difficulty of hunting in a jungle whose other wary occupants give them away at every opportunity – with alarm calls that reverberate across the park.
On the 5th March 2011, the battle was concluded. Vijaya, stood triumphantly by the half-eaten body of her aunt, a gruesome end to a family conflict (though not uncommon). Sadly this left two orphaned cubs, struggling to survive without their mother, Shardul
and her daughter Nalini
Vijaya’s prize was now the prized habitat of Lakshmi’s, at the northern base of the great fort, and north towards Tala. Her confidence rose even further, even though her wounds had still not recovered fully, and it became clear that she could no longer see through her damaged left eye.
Not two months later she was seen mating with Shashi
, the dominant male and, over the last monsoon season, she was pregnant. Heavy with milk swollen teats she was seen in November last year, her tiny two-month-old cubs were presented to waiting admirers. Today her cubs are growing fast and are becoming powerful hunters in their own right. They have regularly been spotted romping throuhg the fields of Bandhavgarh.
Follow this determined mother and her cubs here on Tiger Nation.
These Life stories have been brought to you by Kay and Satyendra Tiwari, and involved twenty five years of passion, note taking and intelligence while living on the borders of Bandhavgarh Reserve. Read their blogs and diaries here.
Credits: Tiger Nation.