April 22, 2018

My first tiger sighting - at Kabini!

I have been to jungles earlier, but have never had the good luck to spot a tiger. Of course, I have always been of the opinion that just spending time in a forest is a great experience and a wonderful break from the complicated human world. Any sighting is a bonus. But since the last 6 months or so, I have been wishing that I too could see a tiger in the wild.

During my last trip to Kabini Jungle Lodges in Karnataka in December 2014, we did see quite a few animals, especially tuskers and their families, deer, peacocks, and several birds.

On this trip, I got luckier! After about 2 hours in the jungle, we spotted the tiger! The buildup to the tiger sighting was very interesting. The naturalist in our jeep came to know that there was a tiger lurking around somewhere near the bund above a moat that had a little water. We waited here a long time, but the tiger did not show up. We then ventured to the other parts of the forest, saw other animals and birds, and then came back to the same spot and waited. Within 10 minutes, an elephant came from the right of our jeep, crossed the road before us, and headed towards the moat, perhaps to drink water. But she suddenly changed direction, and went into the jungle. Then the deer started to make the alarm calls that they make when a predator is around. The entire atmosphere became tense and still like something was about to happen. The constant chatter of the human beings died down as they concentrated on their cameras with 2 ft long lenses!

Then from the bushes behind the bund, the tiger walked out, quite oblivious to the audience that awaited its appearance, and the animals that feared its presence. Cameras immediately started clicking and the tiger - a young 'sub adult' - plonked down and sat on the bund. Within a minute, it lay down...yes, it was nap time, much to the disappointment of the serious photographers! After about 10 minutes, it was on its back, with its paws in the air, much like a dog or a cat! It lay there, sometimes turning left, sometimes turning right, sometimes whisking off a fly with its large paw. It was the cutest thing I ever saw, and I am so glad that rather than seeing a ferocious tiger chasing a deer and killing it, I saw a tiger that was chilling after a meal!

The tiger sitting down...
Taking a nap...
On its back, with paws up in the air :)

This is how the tiger I saw looked through the binoculars
(Photo by Joybroto Dass)  
Arjun, our naturalist told us later that in all probability, the tiger had had a kill, eaten part of it, and had left it behind the bushes from which it came. She was resting, but was also alert turning to keep an eye on the kill on and off, to see that no other animal came and feasted on its meal. Apparently tigers lie on their back to air their inner thighs that get very hot, especially in summer.

It was nearing 6 pm, and we left because we had to get back to the lodge by 6.30 pm. We were happy to leave the tiger and other animals in their beautiful world, where we were really not needed.

It was a very special moment, indeed -- one I will never forget, and one I will re-live every time I think about it. I found the buildup to the tiger sighting fascinating. Having heard about it from others, I was dying to experience it myself. It is one of the things in my life list that I have been able to tick off!

Yes, and one more thing. I am so glad that Kabini's tigers are not identified by name, as is being done with tigers from Tadoba, Kanha and other sanctuaries. It upsets me that human beings are so familiar with them that they actually identify them. Makes it seem more like a zoo and not a jungle. I think we should stop doing that.

2 comments:

Pat san said...

Very lucky ! What would it seem like to have the entire jungle await with bated breath
your every move !

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Yes! Would be nice to be a tiger, methinks! :)