Week in Tiger Paradise
T17’s return to the lake area with her cubs & some fantastic action was good enough a reason for me to pack bags. Like many other photographers & wildlife enthusiasts all over India & abroad, I was waiting to capture this family against the majestic backdrops of Ranthambhore fort & hunting palace in the lake area like her mother legendary Machli and her cubs. But she had some other plans & moved her cubs to the Kachidda Valley area of the park. Lack of prey base in plains during monsoon probably triggered this migration as herbivores move to higher ridges & then the increased activity of her two boyfriends T28 & T25 in her territory is forcing her to stay away from her prime tiger habitat.
As of now she seems more comfortable in valley areas & does occasionally come to lake areas but without cubs. Not so good news for photographers who dreamt of capturing this first family of Ranthambhore in the lake area, as of now it looks like a distant dream. On a lighter note, someone suggested that the forest department should consider leasing out the Rajbagh Lake area to another tiger as it looks like that T17 is not returning any time soon :).
Her new home is comparatively safe from intruding males, the prey base is sufficient & has plenty of water…perfect to raise a litter. This area is the territory of T25 male, her long-time love interest (also the probable father of her cubs) & her two sub-adult daughters. The daughters prefer to stay on the periphery of the park & are no threat to the family while male T25 is busy challenging T28 aka star male & claiming his stake in lake areas. In my eight days of stay could manage to see T17 only once, that too on the last day when she dramatically snatched a kill from a leopard & was returning to her cubs with the kill.
The new tiger to watch out for is young Sultan- son of T39 & fathered by T24. Not very long ago at the beginning of tourist season, he was not comfortable in the presence of vehicles & would only return once comforted by mother T39. Now not only he is confident in the presence of vehicles but obliges shutterbugs with poses, the pedigree surely is showing up. Being a single cub, he does not have siblings to play with but his mother happily chips in as a playmate. Could not manage to see this duo during this trip but surely looking forward to meeting them on my next trip.
There is a tug of war going on between T25 & T28 as T25 is increasingly encroaching into his territory staking his claim on the lake area. One morning he walked Sukhi Talai to the Rajbagh platform then reappeared at Singh Dwar gate & walked to Padam Talab through fort rad and Jogi Mahal, and was finally sighted at Malik Talab. This constant challenge would surely result in confrontation soon between these two big males, the result could change the power dynamics at Ranthambhore forever.
T41 has given birth to a litter, a source confirms that her mammary glands are swollen & have turned pink, an indication of the presence of cubs however there is no credible evidence like sighting, pug marks etc.
The sightings are comparatively less at this point as the mothers are busy raising cubs, T16 prefers to stay away from the limelight & male tigers are busy in power struggle and their movement is restricted to late evenings or early morning. Also, the road repair work is going on in most areas of the park which in a way causes disturbance to wildlife, a necessary evil though.
More updates from the trip in the next blog post.