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The Tiger's Love
Total Articles: 5
Male tigers in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve do not go for fatal encounters amongst themselves, having accepted the unusual norm of the female competing for divergent DNA
The month of May was coming to its last days, when the tourists in Zone 4, Goolarkui area of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, were in for a photographer’s delight – capturing on camera the mating of T25 (Zalim) and T19 (Krishna) tigers. My niece Sriroopa and Nachiketa Bajaj were also amongst the first lucky witnesses.
Oblivious to the presence of the host of Gypsies (the safari jeeps), the mating continued - to be captured on more and more cameras. The news spread like wildfire and over the next three days it was perhaps the most widely circulated photograph on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, at least. While more and more tourists craved to capture these rare scenes, this also caught the attention of the close by territorial male tiger – T28.
I have been a witness to many clashes between T25 and T28. They have already fought a number of times over T17, the elder sister, which has since become extinct from the prime areas of Rajbagh and Malik Talao. I have seen both the tigers getting injured in these fights, but invariably T28, despite sustaining injuries, always had an edge and managed to snatch the female from T25.
While this phenomenon left a delighted lot of wildlife photographers, it also spawned several questions that needed to be analysed and answered.
While it is believed that tigers mate between November and April, then why and how was this happening in the months of May end and June?
Why were two male tigers mating with one female? (It is a general perception that one male tiger keeps territorial dominance over 2-4 females).
Why didn’t T17 bring or keep her cubs in her original home territorial area of Rajbagh and Malik Talao which falls under Zone 3 and partly Zone 2 of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve?
It is believed that T17, who was not bearing cubs for over three years, had her last litter from T25. She always kept the cubs in his territory and never brought them to her home territory, which was dominated by T28, as he would have killed these cubs from T25.
In his famous book, Maneaters of Kumaon, the legendary Jim Corbett also mentions that November to March is the mating season for tigers. (Refer to the story of Thak Maneater)
I had been under the same impression and in sway of various readings and theories on tiger behaviour, till the time on 13 June 2002, when my car was charged at and mockattacked by two mating tigers in the Rohini Padao area of Corbett Tiger Reserve.
My subsequent research brought my focus on the latest studies by the Wildlife Institute of India and that of Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NTA in Pench Tiger Reserve between March 2008 and December 2011, in which it was established that although tigers can mate at any time, breeding is more frequent during November to April. On an average, tigers give birth to 2-3 cubs every 2-2 ½ years and sometimes even in 3-4 years. If all the cubs die, second litter maybe produced within five months also. Gestation is usually 104-106 days and births can occur in a cave, a rocky crevice or in dense vegetation.
This episode of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve between 31 May and 3 June has established that extended mating can happen when more than one male tiger is mating with a female. The matter and actual conception though is still unclear and may become clear only after four months or so.
While generally it is believed and also observed that one male tiger may mate with multiple females in the same forest, but in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, this phenomenon works to the contrary due to the skewed ratio of females and males.
The male tigers here do not go for fatal encounters and have accepted the unusual norm of the female competing for divergent DNA.
My busy schedule and commitments as CMD of Raheja Developers kept me away and I could not take time out to reach Ranthambhore, but young wild life enthusiasts of our family - my niece Sriroopa Raheja Bajaj and Nachiketa Bajaj - kept on sending striking photographs of these mating tigers.
But my close friend and wildlife enthusiast M D Parashar, was even luckier to photograph a rare sequence of T28 and T19 mating in the royal ruins as if enacting the reincarnations of the lost love stories of the long forgotten Royal families that are still sung in the folklores of Rajasthan.
“My subsequent research brought my focus on the latest studies by the Wildlife Institute of India and that of Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NTA in which it was established that although tigers can mate at any time, breeding is more frequent during November to April”
“While generally it is believed and also observed that one male tiger may mate with multiple females in the same forest, but in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, this phenomenon works to the contrary due to the skewed ratio of females and males”
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