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Stone Pelting on Tiger Cubs :Kanha Pench Corridor Becomes Conflict Zone

 Two tiger cubs- less than 6 month old- escaped the fury of a 5000 strong mob in a village located in Kanha-Pench corridor . Villagers tried to kill them by pelting stones when the cubs had reached a water body to quench their thirst. This issue  has highlighted again the plight of the fragmented tiger corridors. It also reminds the urgency to restore their sanctity. People Shouted Kill the Cubs Kill the Cubs  Wildlife is most vulnerable during summer, due to scarcity of resources. Water is the key limited resource inside jungles . Special monitoring ofwater holes should be carried out all along the corridors, to effectively deter such incidents, poaching of herbivores and poisoning of tigers and othercarnivores. In the scorching summer, the two cubs also reached a nearby waterbody . In the adjacent forest , the villagers were plucking tendu leaves- a minor forest produce  to  roll beedi , a thin cigarette or mini-cigar filled with tobacco flake and commonly wrapped in a tendu leaf. Th

Surviving the Toughest Test : A tale Told by Tiger Siblings

 


This is a beautiful story of four tiger siblings- fortunate for two reasons. First, after the tragic death of their mother seven months ago, they were not caged but given a chance to learn and survive in the wild. Second, they not only survived but learnt all the skills required to be alive in the jungle where the law of nature prevails. They have lived to tell a different tiger tale. 

Life after Mother’s Death


In May 2021, when the park was parched and mercury was soaring, Uttam Kumar Sharma, the field director of Panna tiger reserve narrateda chilling story of the four orphaned cubs, three males and one female .Their mother had died of  a" msysterious" illness when they were very young and needed mother’s shadown to survive . As the park management pondered over the situation after the disheartening news of her death, there were many suggestions to save the cubs.“But only a few  suggested leaving cubs in the wild. Most of the people recommended capturing the cubs and keeping them in a big enclosure till they attain adulthood and later re-wild them”, Sharma later revealed.  “Capturing and caging them was not very difficult. It would have reduced our burden of future challenges of ensuring their survival till they are able to manage themselves”, he said.   But the park management opted for  the “risky option”.  “Even a single tiger in the wilderness of PTR is much better than 4 tigers in captivity”, he said after the hard work of their monitoring paid rich dividends and the cubs turned into sub-adults.  


In the last seven months, the tiger reserve team monitored the cubs and the  radio colared -tiger -P243- their father closely. At one stage this tiger appeared to be the immediate threat to cubs. But gradually it was realized that, in an unprecedented move, the father had started rearing the cubs. P243 remained in the cubs’territory helping them in survival. Due to the presence of the tiger, the cubs were protected from other co-predators, especially other male tigers. “Initially there seemed to be daily interaction between P243 and cubs, which later becameless frequent, but even then, no instances of P243 presenting any threat to cubs were observed.  Interestingly, P243 did not share kill with cubs. “It was neither observed nor recorded”, park sources said.  It mainly became the responsibility ofthe park management to ensure that the fur siblings get timely kills. “ Though these cubs initiated hunting attempts as soon as they turned 10 months old,complete skills were still a far cry”, the park director said. 
 
Job done, Father Moves on


Now P243, their father, is seen with 2 females- P142 andP652.  Earlier it was observed that P243was loitering about with tigresses P652 and P653. But his relationship with P653did not  last long. P243 has now shiftedits territory more towards the Northern side of the park , mainly towards Hinota range.As P243 is shifting its territory, there is lots of re-adjustment happening inother males’ territory in adjacent areas also. And as P243 visits to Cub’sTerritory have become less frequent, other male tigers have been observed crossing the cub’s territory but so far there are no reports of any conflict.  


Seven months after their mother’s death, all four have survived the toughest period of their life. They are now nearly 15 month oldand fall in the category of ‘sub-adult’. All four are healthy and grown in sizenow. Though, not all may be of the same size,  their average weight may be around 120 kgseach. They have been code named as P213-32(21), P213-32 (22), (23) and (24).P213-32(24) is the female. They have fine -tuned their hunting skill and they are nowable to kill small prey like a small sized Chital, wild Pig or calf of Sambhar or Nilgai and also small sized cattle. Park authorities did provide necessaryassistance for food whenever a need was felt. But to survive in the wild requiresquick learning on their part. And they have done so very fast. One thing which requires special mention is that once they start hunting, excitement of hunting overtakes them and they don’t like any assistance for food. 

United they stand but for how long?


All four are still united and should remain together for atleast next 5-6 months when they would start charting their own individualterritories. Initial threat of Leopard or Sloth Bear killing cubs was over whenthey became 9-10 month old. But, the threat of other tigers   stillcannot be ruled out. Generally, tigers start exploring on their own at the age of around 20 months.  


Now, they have reacheda stage when they can hunt with ease and elegance. As they remained in the wildwithout their mother, perhaps, they are more skilled in surviving the wild. “But finally, it is wild nature and it has its own rules and if we surrender to nature's intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees”, says the park director.“The fundamental rule of nature is ‘Survival of Fittest’. As managers, we cannot ensure the survival of all the tigers, all the time. It’s not possible andit cannot be this way. Only fit and strong will survive”, he said. The fourcubs, now sub-adults, will have to chart their own way. Nature is rude andtigers know this better than us.
Images courtsey : Panna tiger reserve 

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