Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Gabbar and P1

Yesterday the park was closed. The tigers had a day off and I spent my time watching tawny coster and lemon pansy butterflies and petulantly cursing the tectonically slow wifi in this wonderful wild place. This morning the tigers chose not to work either: no pugmarks, no alarm calls, though a single jeep saw one of P1's cubs interacting with a small herd of gaur and another found the male Gabbar at waterhole 97.

This afternoon the tigers returned to work. We found Gabbar at the first Pander Pouni waterhole, resting in the shade of a small jamun tree. From here this powerful male strode across the short grass, setting sambar and chital calling in alarm. We moved quickly to the next waterhole where he appeared from the trees and entered the water, swimming through the deepest part as if to reach the island. But he stayed in the shallows at the island's edge and wallowed.

It was clear from his shaking head that he was distressed and the reason soon became clear. Across his bloody nose there were two deep slashes, caused no doubt in a fight with a rival male. The naturalists at Svasara speculate this may have been Namdev, the other dominant male in the area of the park we mostly visit. The two males' ranges seem poorly defined and there is much unrest among the tigers in Tadoba this year.

As, after his bath, Gabbar seemed inclined to stay in the long grass of the island, we opted to look for P1's cubs around Jamni, where one of them had been seen this morning. Good decision. Very good decision. Beyond Jamni we began to hear the low moan of an adult tiger, P1 we assumed, from the sparse bamboo and teak forest to our left. The roaring moved slowly towards the Kolara exit road, so, it hardly needs saying, we did too. After minutes spent nervously waiting in our jeeps, we heard the calls approaching the fireline, then saw P1 walk directly towards us, moaning as she came. She passed just feet from our vehicle, crossed the road and continued along the fireline on the far side.

My single guest Doug, from New York State, had never seen a tiger. This afternoon he saw two: a battle-scarred male taking his bath and a gorgeous orange female, roaring to the forest and all its inhabitants.

Cats seen in 2015
cheetah Acinonyx jubatus fearonii            3
serval Leptailurus serval serval                3
leopard Panthera pardus suahelicus        2
lion Panthera leo nubica                          78
snow leopard Panthera uncia                   3
jungle cat Felis chaus                               1
tiger Panthera tigris tigris                          5
leopard Panthera pardus fusca                1