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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 Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project.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

Park staff bridges the Mom’s Gap as Tiger Rears Disciplined Cub

Thirty days after the death of a tigress in Panna, her four cubs continue to grow, thanks to  the loyal male tiger who sired them and the staff of the tiger reserve . As the park staff closely monitors the upbringing of the cubs in the absence of their mother, it turned out to be a learning experience for them.  Imagine, the tiger hunts for the cubs and the park staff delivers it in the ‘cubs’ territory’ to enable them to eat.  Some new lessons in tiger conservation are being learnt every day by Panna tiger  reserve of Madhya Pradesh.

Cubs’ Territory: Lesson for the Litter and the Staff

Images of the cubs’ movement churned out by the camera traps have been immensely useful for the park management to monitor them. Disciplined cubs remain in their territory which has been termed as ‘cubs territory’ by the park. “They now have a territory within which they move. Size of this territory is less than one square kilometer. We can call it ‘Cub’s Territory’”, says Uttam Kumar Sharma, the park director. Currently, all her four cubs are healthy and doing good in the wild. It’s like disciplined children who remain at home when the parents go out.

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

In the absence of their mother “the cubs don’t seem to be stressed; instead they are playful and quite active. All four cubs are staying and roaming together”, the park management learnt. . On June 6, the male tiger P243 killed a cow early in the morning near the village little away from cub’s territory, but the tiger did not eat it.  And the cubs also did not have access  to the place of kill as it seemed outside their territory. “For the whole day, P243 remained in the area but did not eat the kill. A little support was provided from Park management in bringing the kill inside the cub's territory, and the cubs gorged on kill for the next two days”.  Though the tiger remained in the same area , he did not bother the cubs . Did P243 leave the kill for cubs to eat? Can’t be said for sure but it needs to be further observed, the park management said as they continued to monitor the family closely.

Responsible Father Keeps an Eye on Cubs

After the death of the tigress P213-32 on May 15,   four 7 -month old cubs were rendered orphaned.  But the male tiger P243 took over the responsibility.  His behavior is unlike any other male tiger of the wild who tends to move away in search of another tigress risking the life of the cubs. For the first few days after the mother’s death, the cubs were missing. But after a massive search operation, they were located by the field staff and since then they have been monitoring them from close quarters.  

Also read: Lonely Panna Tiger Misses Mate While Rearing Four Cubs                    

As the cubs are too small to  hunt independently , they need their father  to arrange food for them and the tiger P243 has shouldering this responsibility  very well till now.  “Cubs eat only if kill is available in their territory. If kill is not within the one square km area where  they are confined to themselves , support from the park management in terms of bringing kill, either  the one done  by their father P243 or of any other carnivore, inside cub’s territory is required”, the park management said .” Mostly, cubs start eating in the evening and continue till morning. All four Cubs have put on some weight and look a little bigger in size since last month”, they observed.  The tiger P243, is moving in the area keeping a close vigil over the cubs and continues to move alone without a female. And like a responsible father, he has not remained away from the cub’s territory for more than two days.

Kill Skill : Will Father  Again Play Mom’s Role

So far, the going is smooth. The tiger is caring for the cubs and making the food available. But the cubs need to learn the skills to kill a prey.  Normally the tiger cubs begin to hunt with their mother between eight to ten months of age. The mother is primarily concerned with teaching her cubs how to hunt and protect themselves. As these cubs are now more than eight months old, they seem to have learned the art of piercing the stomach of the kill and eating it.

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

 It will be interesting to observe how they learn the skills of hunting prey without their mother. Whether the father plays the role of mother and teaches hunting skills.  The park management is keeping its fingers crossed. Though bigger predators, a leopard and a sloth bear, were spotted in the area where the cubs are moving, they remained unharmed. Perhaps, they seemed to have learned the art of protecting themselves as they continued to be safe. Next 2-3 months are very crucial for gaining skills for survival and surviving in the wild. 

Camera trap images: Courtsey Panna tiger reserve

Comments

  1. This kind of behaviour is recorded previous also . Only difference is that that time social media was not there to flash the news immediately and get the publicity overnight.

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