After the untimely death of Vijaya there are many who love Bandhavgarh, now spending hours mulling over concerns as to which tigress might take her space and the future of her one remaining cub. With little news forthcoming from the Forest Department these days it is very difficult to say anything concrete. It’s a game of wait and see as usual.
Also many are wondering which male tiger actually died back in July after a nasty fight. It was reported as a male cub of the Milchaini tigress, called Tulsi, but of the remaining two which is actually dead? Is it T7 or T8? T6 had already vanished earlier in the season, fate unknown, presumed killed in the continued male struggle that has hit Bandhavgarh.
Neither male had been seen regularly during the season due to Tulsi’s continued cleverness in keeping her tribe well concealed. However when sightings were made a little of their individual characters were becoming apparent. T7, being less shy than his brother T8, was more curious and interested in the tourism attention of which T8 basically tried to ignore – as his mother so often does. For T7 the attention seemed fascinating. Both boys clung to their mother often walking close by her side rubbing up against her enjoying the security she offered. Never before with a litter had Tulsi kept her growing cubs so close. Even at 18 months of age she was reluctant in leaving them alone for long, feeling it necessary to keep the two remaining boys within her sights and high in the hills away from marauding young males travelling long distances from kill sights and moving her family regularly to secret places away from danger.
Of course as the cubs grew older demands on their mother would have grown. Food would have been for ever on her agenda and therefore the constant fear of an unknown and unwelcome intruder at the table. Not only was Tulsi dealing with her own family struggles supplying food for the father of the cubs, presumed to be Shashi, she was also dealing with several youngsters. Pushpraj and his brother Kanvar who had caused her stress the previous season were continually following her in the hope of food. Somanshu, Vijaya’s son from Chakradhara on occasions made an entrance and the very fiery visitor from Magdhi, an complete unknown has recently turned up to add to the trauma.
In fact it was this unpredictable male that by the end of the summer was regularly seen in Milchaini and many believe that it is this male that is now causing the chaos while Pushpraj has vanished from sight having been accused of decimating his mother Wakeeta’s second litter, his own step brothers and sister. At the same time Somanshu has holed up in the slightly more peaceful area of Chakradhara/Barua Nallah and Banbehi/Ghorademon. It is therefore being presumed the aggressive Magdhi male killed the cub in July or at least injured it during a fierce fight. Another story however reports that actually the elephant Astam killed the injured cub after it attacked from behind by applying pressure to its trachea when forcing it down by his trunk? The truth is we at TN will probably never know the true facts or the reality of which tigers were involved.
Since the monsoon began in Bandhavgarh there has been nothing but bad news. In Milchaini a young male was found dead after a fight with a stronger tiger – but reported to have been killed by an elephant sent out to report on its condition. Then reports of maneaters in Khitauli and the heated debatesabout what do about this thorny problem. And now the astonishing news that Vijaya (better known as Kankatti) is dead.
Her body was discovered on the morning of the 6th August lying near the MPT compound. She was partially decomposed and torn open on the left rear flank. It appeared the tigress had died two or three days previously and her body had lain undiscovered. The day before it had rained heavily all day and much flooding had occurred with the Chukradhara stream higher than we have ever seen it. This would certainly not have helped in identifying the course of death and had possibly washed the body into its present position. However, it has been reported that there were bite marks on the body and wounds. One side the right flank was identifiable and confirmed the body was indeed that of the tigress Vijaya. It is thought now that she had died from loss of blood after a tremendous fight.
As we had all known her, she was barve and ferocious fighter and would have fought to the end, but with which opponent we will probably never know.
What about her 4 month old cubs?
Naturally, since her discovery and resultant Hindu cremation, the search has been on to find the cubs or at least determine their present condition. Sadly this very afternoon two were discovered dead near the remains of a chital kill. The third was seen nearby and I believe has been captured or surrounded by fencing. What will happen to this single cub is unsure as a compound in Jhorjhora may be a very poor and lonely existence for such a youngster, now only 4 months old. The dice are stacked again its survival.
Who is the culprit?
It is hard to say? There are several young males in the area including her son, Somanshu and Ondrilla’s now two year old cubs, but I would doubt these have the strength to overcome this fiesty tigress. Then there is the dominant male Jobhi but he has been seen in her company so why would he choose to kill one of his females. He would certainly have the strength and power but his range covers Vijaya ‘s territory and she knows him now. This fight appears like a fight with an unknown marauder.
Could this be the work of the aggressive and unpredictable male from Magdhi that no one knows the ancestory of? He is a dicey male that snarls at everything and is thought to be the tiger that fought in July in Milchaini. Could he have reached to Chorbehra and be challenging for space here. The Forest Dept say there is a male about but which one it is, is not at all clear. All thought it to be Jobhi but maybe another has turned up as Rahasy did last season. Indeed, has he returned to wreck havoc again?
Once again Chakradhara, our magic meadow falls silent and is left bereft.
Will one of Vijaya’s neices relish its beauty and the harvest of its bounty and once more breathe life into the heart of this normally peaceful playground.
Vijaya charmed everyone at the end of the season last week. She had made a small kill of a spotted deer in Chakradhara Meadow near several water sources but hidden amongst dense lush elephant grass, ideal cover for a tigress to stalk through, as unweary deer gather at the water’s edge. For several days Vijaya enjoyed her meal and even bought her three little ones to share the feast. They were hardly visible but for the movement of the tall grasses. Now and then the glimpse of an ear or tail as the tigress turned over in the grass to relieve a very full belly.
But the end of June was very hot and with no rain on offer by morning or late afternoon it was time to venture out for a drink. First Vijaya would slowly emerge from the grasses and settle near the edge of a clearing not far from a muddy waterhole. Here she would sit and carefully groom her gleaming golden coat before beckoning her family out. Ears pricked and softly calling to encourage the three to come Vijaya seemed confident and unconcerned at the attention she gathered around her. Slowly slowly out of the dense cover three little faces appear. The first to show its face is a bit unsure however and allows the second in line to approach and nuzzle it’s mother first. The third very shy and a wee bit frightened decides it’s its not the time yet to be too brave and vanishes back out of sight. Yesterday too the family had been seen. Two little ones coming forward into the clearing while the third tentative and snarling would not venture far.
Today, again Vijaya is ready to quench her thirst as two of her offspring stare out of cover. Suddenly Vijaya becomes very alert. She has noticed two patrolling staff on foot on the road hardly yards from where she and the cubs are sitting. This challenge is an unwelcome interruption and soon her cubs are hurrying back into the tall grasses. The tigress too turns and crouches low slinking off in a manner of a leopard rather than a dominant cat. Obviously people on foot are not welcome in Vijaya’s meadow. Minutes later Vijaya emerges again a few yards away and settles under a bamboo clump. It appears the cubs are close by behind a long and that mother wants the family to cross the road and head for the hills. Confident the jeep borne visitors watching are of no concern, yet the patrolling staff want their bicycles and as a further Forest Officer on a motorbike enters the scene all three disturb the tigress once more and she heads off towards the Fort Plateau, her original plans now changed.
As the sun rises higher in the summer sky Vijaya and her family can be seen amongst the dry forest grasses heading towards a cool cave nestled on the hillside. Here they can rest in peace and the cubs can suckle milk. No one on foot will enter these dark cat coverted places for fear of attack. Here Vijaya and her little ones rest a while before returning to the meadow and the remains of the kill.
Sadly by the time we all see them again they will be nearly four months older and a lot bigger.
Lets hope they have a peaceful healthy monsoon and that all will be well in October.
It’s several weeks now since news of Vijaya’s second litter of cubs broke when they were spotted at Gopalpur crossing the road during the searing heat of an April day, following their proud mother to the safety of a cool cave. Since then they have been seen on a few occasions and even with the presence of Jobhi. Finally they have arrived to reveal three small bungles of fun under the ever vigilant presence of their mother’s caring eye.
It is not really known when they were born exactly or who the father truly is but does Jobhi’s huge presence now in Chakradhara and Sidh Baba offer a reasonable hint of parentage? The cubs though still small, no longer have their baby blue eyes or show the cuddlesome fluffy cute bodies of new borns, but the viewing has indicted that at least one cub is male. For this family the learning curve has already begun. After the troubles of Vijaya’s first litter if all three are to survive to adulthood, they must study well.
It’s early morning in Jumunia with temperature a cool 26 degrees celcius as the sun rises slowly in the west. A half consumed chital kill lies in damp cover nearby. Vijaya killed in the night and the whole family has already feasted well. Tiny stomachs take less than a kilo of meat but Vijaya herself looks well fed, content and untroubled. She grooms her cubs with her long rasped tongue and they lovingly gather around under her watchful gaze.
Rising she steps out of cover into the open and again sits and looks longingly at her cubs to follow and perhaps suckle a while. However, suddenly patrolling staff appear on foot and disturb her intentions, causing her to retreat and head off towards the track beckoning her cubs to follow. Within second amongst the rustle of undergrowth three little bodies emerge and trot off behind the tigress hurrying to keep pace, their little legs at time fully extended.
Mum does not glance back to check her family is following, this is not the first time she has moved her brood in daylight or human presence and she knows her cubs have learnt the need to keep her in their sights.
The Berda female is a great survivor. Orphaned when she was just over a year old, she survived this trauma to establish herself in the place of her birth as a member of the ruling elite. Gave birth to a new litter after loosing her first litter earlier.
Born in the beautiful Berda valley to mother T4 and father Big Daddy, T41 grew up with her brother Berda male cub (T40) and was well known to regular guides and travelers. When the cubs were a year old, their mother died as a result of an infected injury caused by another tiger after a fight over prey. The cubs stayed together and supported each other for another year, helping each other hunt and learn basic survival skills.
As the Semli male (T6) started muscling his way into their home territory, T41’s brother was driven out of the area and has not been seen since. T41 stayed behind and made her peace with the new Semli male, regularly mating with him.
T41’s range now includes Berda, Semli, Bhakola valley and the Adidant region.
She gave birth to a litter of cubs in November 2012. She however lost all this litter. However a single new cub was seen in May 2013.
These life stories were brought to you after years of careful observation, notes and photography. Aditya Singh is a principal contributor together with many of Ranthambhore’s nature guiding community, and the success of Tigerwatch’s ongoing intelligence. Read all their blogs here
Tracking the Tigress, INDIA – Cee4life doesnt just help captive aniamls, we also try to help the wild one when we can. On this occasion we were in India, where a female tigress had one of her cubs killed by a car. She stayed in the area for the next week attacking every vehicle or bike that went by. The authorities were alerted, but no one came to help. We were in the area, so we did what we could. The mum was separated from her 3 remaining babies by monsoon waters. They could have been killled by jackals, bears and other predators. We went to find the mum and try and get her back.
Turn it up, sit back, and watch how frightening this is. We had no defences and we knew, the tiger saw us, but we did not see her.
Happy ending, she got back to her cubs.
A female Tiger with her 4 cubs crossed an isolated road outside of a protected area. One of her cubs was hit by a random car and killed. For the next week, the Tigress attacked every vehicle or bike that went past. She finally wandered into the bush. It was monsoon season. News came that she had been seperated from her young 2 month old cubs. Other predators were in the area. We went to check on her to see that she made it back to her cubs safely. However, we did not need to see her, we just needed to find evidence she was reunited with her cubs again. Every tiger counts. This footage is a bit bouncy, sorry about that, hard to film in this situation.
The Magdhi zone of Bandhavgarh is a far more complicated range to follow, simply because many of the tigers that are spotted in the area actually drift in and out and mostly reside elsewhere. Much of the visitor area is in fact a chunk of the Tala Range given to Magdhi for the purpose of providing tigers to see when it was first opened to the public. True Magdhi tigers are elusive tigers and rarely seen and that would include a tigress that is reported by the Forest Department to have just littered four cubs, and yet her identity and life may never be known and can be classed with the known Magdhi tigers like Collar Wallah and those unidentified youngsters that have simply popped up in Magdhi this season.
Magdhi zone has always been a quiet zone too, sightings infrequent and fleeting though this winter past there were several exciting encounters with Yoshila (called Sukia Pattia female) and her two cubs before the increasing temperatures sent all undercover. These cubs must be over eighteen months old now and reaching a time there mother will desert them. Indeed the last few sightings that have produced photographs of this family show them to have possibly separated already. There still seems some uncertainty also as to whether both are female or they are brother and sister. This I cannot accurately comment on as I am yet to encounter either on my rather unsuccessful trips to Magdhi. The joy is that Yoshila still patrols her territory and looks more and more the mature and capable mother she was born to be. Her mother Chameli now the oldest tigress in the park is not seen at all and is thought to be living out her years in Kulwah Range beyond the eyes and cameras of visitors. However, it is very possible a recent young intruder male to the Magdhi area could be a cub of Chameli. Though he has not been seen for some time now he could easily pop up at any time this summer.
Jaya spent much of the winter settled in no-man’s land between Tala and Magdhi zones and was often seen around Sukki Dam and the new concrete dish towards Gohni meadows nicknamed by drivers and guides as Todaba waterhole! Jaya herself is still the sweetest of tigresses to encounter but her now independent two year old cubs very much more difficult to spot as the summer heat grows. They have drifted towards Dudra meadow and Climber Point and though there have been a few sightings recently of two or more of these cubs, mostly they move independently and at night, vanished like phantoms leaving only pugmarks by dawn. Their main joy right now seems to be annoying the Tala Gaur herd that has at least five new calves this season, one daughter even being injured by one and she is now carrying quite a limp.
Down at Mahaman there is of course another family of tigers thought to be those of the tigress Ondrila, seen on occasions during the winter months but more frequently now as the family splits up. The cubs are even older than those of Yoshila possibly even two years old now. They are hunting alone and can be spotted in both Magdhi and Khitauli. Early summer sightings have included a chital kill on Mahaman pool and a sambar kill just inside Khitauli. It is thought this family has at least two males amongst the siblings but the sex of the third is unknown and in any case this has not been confirmed due to a lack of. The mother of these cubs is more often spotted slinking across the main Umaria road than inside the park nowadays and more surprising her sister I10 was recently photo ID’d near Tadoba pool in the company of a cub!? This has led to some confusion as to whether Sundari, (as she has been named) or Ondrila is in fact the mother of the Mahaman cubs or even whether both mothers are still present in the park. If they both are then it is incredible that so many tigresses are existing within the Magdhi and Khitauli crossover. Sadly with visitors only allowed to visit 20% of the park these days , so monitoring is becoming increasingly more difficult.
Call for help from photographers
If many more of you can add to TN’s directory and join hands to conserve these magnificent cats, by keeping a well organized directory and database, then we can truly know the numbers or the individual’s fates?
Males of the Magdhi zone
Though Jobhi is hardly seen he is still thought to be the main man in Magdhi and it is believed he was filmed by the BBC in the presence of Jaya and her family this winter, something we certainly can wait to see on our screening! The most amazing news of cause is the return of Blue Eyes this winter but why he would choose to re-enter his arch enemy’s domain I do not know. When he disappeared in monsoon with pretty bad injuries from fighting it was thought he could not survive – but fantastic that he has.
Blue Eyes has certainly changed in appearance slightly and is supporting quite a limp. However he must have been able to feed himself and has survived to conquer again. However the last time he was sighted his old facial wound was weeping again and his limp no better. Has he been fighting again? If Jobhi is chasing his tail it will be hard for Blue Eyes to remain in the visitor’s area and he may have to retreat back from where he came.
We should not forget Collar Wallah – now collarless- because he’s out there somewhere too and the female from the enclosure now also collared was last spotted near Badrashila. There are so many tigers in Magdhi but where are all the photographs of these beauties, Tiger Nation needs more please.
Other wildlife in Magdhi
I find even chital hard to spot beyond the area that is truly Tala Range. Yes the gaur pass through the area and sambar are seen on occasions but certainly not in any numbers. Nilgai seem to be the most dispersed of the prey species, so it is little wonder there are so many cattle taken in the area every day. I have also not heard about any bear or leopard sightings in Magdhi this season though I believe the wild dogs clipped a corner during the winter months. Alas there has been a lot of waterhole work and new construction happening so it is very likely that this has disrupted the animal’s dispersal area. All will settle but it could take time.
Life is never as tranquil as one might hope in India’s Parks where the intense pressure of both saving species and also increasing their numbers is the driving force, against a myriad of other human related pressures and intrusions.