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Return of ‘Bagheera’ in the Mowgli land of Pench

In the Mowgli land of Central India’s Pench tiger reserve , ‘ Bagheera’  has returned. And this black leopard is attracting the attention of a large number of wildlife tourists. So far only a few lucky people have got a chance to see some glimpses of this elusive big cat, mostly wandering around the buffer zone of the jungle and also often visiting the core area. Despite the presence of  the star big -cats like Collarwalli, Patdev or L-Mark, there is a lot of buzz  in the park about ‘ Bagheera‘ too. Kipling Immortalises Black Panther Rudyard Kipling immortalized the black panther  –Bagheera. As a child Kipling lived in India and most of his stories are set in the country, though it is not entirely clear in exactly which part of the country.  The jungles that claim to be associated with Kipling stories include Pench National Park located near the district of Seoni.  Also read : Like Her Mother in Pench, Patdev Tigress delivers 5 cubs The park is also popularly known as Mowgli land and t

Male Tiger Plays Mom’s Part in Panna



When four tiger cubs orphaned in Panna national park on May 15, everybody was concerned about their safety.  Wildlife experts thought that the life of the four cubs was at risk after their mother died under mysterious circumstances.  Ever since, the cubs are at the mercy of a male tiger who had fathered them about 7 to 8 months ago.  And this tiger is displaying some extraordinary pro social behavior. A picture released by the tiger reserve showed the new family equation: four cubs- three sitting on a rock while the fourth on the ground – enjoying the company of their ‘father’. It was clicked on May 22. 

The Tiger Protects the Cubs 

The tiger conduct has left the wildlife experts amazed. Initially, no tiger expert was sure of the safety of these cubs and the duration for which the male tiger would   share his kill with the cubs.  But now it appears that P243, the male tiger, is rearing the cubs like a mother.  The tiger is sharing the kill and roaming around with them to protect the cubs from other park predators especially the male tigers. Now P243 has been radio collared and is being monitored round the clock to ensure safety of the cubs, the park management said.  “We have heard that tiger is a solitary animal and male stays with female for a short duration of mating time. Some different story is emerging from Panna Tiger Reserve,” said the park director Uttam Kumar Sharma.  “More updates to come with monitoring data, will open up new paradigms in tiger biology and raising orphan cubs in the wild”, the park management tweeted. 

72 Hours of Tiger Tracking

Director of Panna tiger reserve said, “No expert can vouch for knowing the tiger’s behavior completely. Though the record of P243, is good and he is known for not harming the cubs, there is no guarantee of the longevity of the good conduct.”  The absence of mother can always change the behavior. wildlife experts said.   The four cubs were missing for almost three days after the sudden death their mother P213 (32). Mystery shrouded the death of the young tigress and the cause of the death was “unknown”.   The matter is being investigated with visceral samples.

Also read: Red Threat on Tiger Census

 For the park management, it was a double whammy.  On one hand the loss of about 8 year old tigress was being mourned,  on the other hand there was a big question mark over the cubs’ safety.  After they went missing ,the park director led a team of over 100 tiger trackers  to  trace   the cubs .  Forest guards and rangers were scanning the jungle patch where the tigress  was located   last before her death. More than 72 hours of hard work paid off  and  the  cubs were sited . The tiger family was located in a thick jungle patch with a very difficult terrain. Though P243, the male tiger, looked dejected after the death of his mate, there was hardly any change in the behavior of the cubs and they seemed to be enjoying their dad’s company, the jungle staff claimed. ” This  scene left them wondering”, they said. Once they were sited, the cubs continued to be monitored by the field staff.  .Besides, cameras have also been installed to monitor the family of the big cats round the clock. 

Uncertainty over Tiger Future 

Facing imminent threat from the Ken Betwa river link project, Panna tiger reserve  has  seen many ups and downs in the last one and half decade. There was a time when  all the tigers had vanished from the park after extensive poaching of the big cats. In 2008 , there were no tigers left in the park. A successful tiger reintroduction programme brought the roar back in the emerald forests of Panna . 

Also read: Future Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

In November 2020, Panna tiger reserve was accorded the status of  UNESCO’s  biosphere. But  the sword of Damocles of Ken Betwa River link was always dangling over the park. Last month, an agreement was signed  by the state’s of UP and MP to build a dam inside the park  to link the rivers of Ken and Betwa which will lead to the  submergence of  the best of the tiger habitant of the tiger reserve. So the fate of the father-cubs family and other big cats  is also uncertain.

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