Tackling teenage issues
As teenagers, we all go through a phase of crisis, and even tigers are not immune to it. The cubs of T19, consisting of two males and one female, are around 18 months old, and their mother has her hands full. The cubs have grown into sub-adults, and soon they will have to leave the safety of their mother to face the harsh realities of life. Their curiosity to explore the unknown, rebellious attitude, and increasing demand for food can even make the most devoted mother lose sleep.
While many might assume that the male cubs are the root cause of her worries, it is the female cub that is causing anxiety for this first-time mother. Like a rebellious teenager, she spends most of her time alone, while the male cubs prefer to hang around with their mother. During a recent sighting of this family, I was fortunate enough to witness the strong bond between the mother and her two boys.
The family had moved to the Lahpur area, away from the tourism zone, but a recent move by the FD to fill an artificial waterhole in the Mandook area brought them back into the tourism zone. When I saw the mother and two cubs in the Mandook area in the morning, I decided to try my luck in the afternoon. Although there was no guarantee of seeing them again, the scarcity of water and their appearance after a gap increased the likelihood.
As we patiently waited around the waterhole, a distant alarm call by a Sambar deer alerted us to their movement. As the calls grew closer and louder, we knew they were heading towards us. The first to arrive was one of the male cubs, crossing the road confidently with vehicles all around. He waited patiently for his brother to arrive. While we typically think of tigers as solitary animals with sibling rivalry, this behaviour was quite the opposite. The mother was the last to arrive, and by then, both cubs had settled themselves comfortably in the waterhole, trying to beat the excessive June heat.
The family appeared comfortable with the presence of tourist vehicles, unlike T19 in her early days when she was one of the shyest tigresses. One of the cubs, who had moved away, returned and began the best part of this entire sighting. The cub bent his body backwards, rubbed his nose on his mother, and she responded by licking him. It was a sheer display of undying attention and a real treat to watch for any wildlife lover. This continued for more than 15 minutes before the mother decided to call it a day, and the family returned to the safety of nearby caves, their home for the night.