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Are Lion Tailed Macaque More Fortunate than Panna Tigers: A Tale of Two Projects

Almost a  year after the Karnataka high court stayed the project that had further threatened the already endangered lion tailed macaque (LTM) ((Macaca silenus), endemic to the Sharavathi river valley nestled in the Western Ghats; the sword of Damocles continues to hang over the primates. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) had launched a geothermal survey  with heavy machines to ascertain if the 2000 MW underground pump storage hydro-electric project was feasible. Besides LTM, the Sharavathi river valley is also home to a diverse array of species and sustains very rich biodiversity. Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project. For the time being, the power project may not have been in the priority list of the government after the change in the political guard, it continues to stare at LTM menacingly. Sharavathi Valley, a Jewel in the Western Ghats The project was proposed within the core area of 902 sq km in the Sharavathi Valle

Lonely Panna Tiger Misses Mate While Rearing Four Cubs

 

Besides playing an exceptional father, this Panna tiger also seems to be showing great emotions for his mate. The tiger is spending long hours at the spot where the tigress was cremated. Just after an hour of cremation of his beloved, the tiger was spotted on the same site- sitting quietly as if missing the mate. In another instance he was again  found sitting, for a considerable amount of time,  this time at the location where the tigress had died .These are the moments when the tiger tracking team  could actually  notice it.  They feel the tiger is usually moving around the same spots, the place of cremation and the jungle patch where the tigress died on May 15, the culmination of almost two years’  of companionship between the male tiger P243 and the female P213-32.

Caring Father,  Teaching Life Lessons

The exceptional fatherly act by P243 not only caught the attention of the tiger enthusiast all around the globe but also is proving to be fresh behavior on the part of a male tiger. Not only is he proving to be a great mom to the four cubs but also teaching life lessons after  the tigress P213-32 died under unknown circumstances on the morning of May 15. Since then the tiger has been diligently taking care of the 7 month old cubs, the park management has observed. . This etiquette didn’t go unnoticed by the staff of Panna tiger reserve. When the lonely tiger spent time around the spot where the tigress was cremated, the cubs were located around that place too. He keeps the cubs at the similar location where their mother left them and is also heard calling the litter several times.

This was a very positive sign in terms of protection of the cubs in the near future till he meets another tigress. But this possibility is very uncertain because P243 has not been seen with any tigress yet and the staff management is keeping an eye on the situation.

Also read :Male Tiger Plays Mom’s Part  in Panna

Famous for its tiger reintroduction programme , Panna  is again witnessing new insights into the tiger behavior.  Out of 7 reintroduced tigers in 2009 onwards, 5 are still surviving in the wilderness of the tiger reserve . Tigress P213-32 was the second generation of Panna progeny. It was the second cub of the third  litter of tigress P213 which in turn was the third cub of tigress T2. P213-32 was born in January 2016. She became a mother in January 2019 when she gave birth to 4 cubs. Out of these 4 cubs, 2 are still surviving as 2 died after a few months of their birth.

New Challenges and Insight into Tiger Behaviour

As P213-32 was close to human habitation, regularly visiting nearby villages of Koni, Majholi and Gahadra, she was radio collared in February 2020 for better monitoring and protection. The tigress gave birth to  the second litter sometime in September-October 2020  and died on May 15  leaving the cubs in the custody of P243. First photos of cubs were captured by a camera trap setup in the area on October  29 2020, when she was shifting them from one place to another. The tiger  took custody of the cubs soon after the death of P213-32. This looked evident when  a team of tiger trackers  located the four cubs two days after the death of their mother on May 17. P243 was also found to be moving in a very nearby area and kept at bay from ground search.  They were also being monitored by 23 camera traps installed  in the area around . On May 18, evening and night, the first camera trap pictures of all 4 cubs were received. All  the four looked healthy in pictures . In the intervening night of  May 21 and 22, P243 hunted a Sambar deer near the location of cubs. In the morning, pug marks of cubs were also found along with P243 near the Sambhar carcass. Camera trap pictures also revealed cubs eating Sambhar meat. Also at around 6 am in the morning, an elephant search party located all 4 cubs with P243 together resting near the kill. Photographs and videos were taken. All these events indicated strongly that P243 is taking care of cubs and P243 was sharing kill with the cubs.

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

Behavior of the tiger P 243 strengthened the belief that his presence means no harm to cubs. Instead, it showed lots of promise with regard to the safety of cubs.  The field experience of ground staff feels  that  behavior of P243 is a positive sign for survival of cubs in the wild. “ The prevailing situation has posed new challenges and has given new insights of tiger behavior. The situation has also opened a good opportunity to understand the behavior of orphaned cubs in the wild along with their father and this will be really helpful in future for raising the orphaned cubs”, said Uttam Lumar Sharma, the field director  of Panna tiger reserve. “ Every day is a new learning for Tiger Reserve management and it holds further new insights and learning for the future. Let’s keep our fingers crossed”, he said smilingly.  

Ranthambhore Tiger Had Also Played Dad’s Role

In a similar situation , a tigress died  two months after giving birth to two  cubs in Ranthambhore National Park in  February 2011.  The park management feared the worst about the safety of the cubs when soon it turned out, these sisters were destined for something big and different. 

Also read: Tale of Missing Tigers of Ranthambhore: 4 More Takes the Count to 34

“ In an extremely rare and unusual turn of events, the father, a young male named T-25, took the responsibility of nurturing the young ones and it was  considered as the first reported case of its kind. But  Panna's P243 added another element in the tiger behaviour  – compassion.

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