Ranthambore: A tale of three tigers
One’s first encounter with tigers is always magical, eliciting squeals of delight from children and loud gasps from the adults.
- Total Shares
A male spotted dear with his splendid display of antlers. KD, Ritu and I were in Ranthambore recently in our search for the elusive cubs of tigress T-19. As Markus, our German co-passenger, so humorously put it: "Where there’s ample lunch, the tigers must be far away." By "lunch", he meant the deers. One of the two female cubs of T-19 that we spotted in zone three. It was late afternoon and she was panting from the heat. Spread over 800sqkm (0.2 acres), Ranthambore is famous for its ark of wildlife. We came across langurs, nilgai, samba and spotted deer, wild boars, a leopard and even a badger during our brief visit. The same cub from another angle. One’s first encounter with tigers is always magical, eliciting squeals of delight from children and loud gasps from the adults. As vehicle after vehicle pulled up next to us, its occupants successively oohed and aahed at the sight of the regal creature. Day two: This time, we sighted all of T-19's three cubs together. We could hardly believe our luck! Here, one of the female cubs is limbering up for play. The aforementioned female and the male cub horsing around. There are 60 tigers in Ranthambore, including 22 sub-adults. Each adult requires 40sqkm of territory. The other female cub greeting her fellow sibling. We were in zone three again. The cubs were hungry, not having seen their mother T-19 for the past couple of days. Just 13 months old, the cubs have not yet learnt how to hunt, hence their dependency on their mother. Adult male tigers can consume up to 40kg of meat at one sitting, whilst for a female adult, the figure is 30kg. One of the female cubs yawning in the heat. A guide told us that tigers only enjoy a 20 per cent rate of success at hunting. Cubs start hunting at the age of two years. The male cub crossing our path and growling at our Gypsy. The cubs will be given a name once they reach 2.5 years of age and start hunting for their own territory. They are now known only as cubs of T-19. One of the female cubs. Besides the tigress T-19 and her cubs, zone three is also home to a male tiger, T-28. In Ranthambore, tiger censuses are conducted every year in the months of April and May. A baby crocodile basking in the sun on the banks of one of the lakes. Ranthambore is home to the snub nosed marsh crocodiles. Full-length adults can be seen swimming just under the water surface towards wary birds foraging near the shore. Two black-faced langurs keeping watch as another brethren tribe approached. The event, captured on our cameras, was full of drama. The alpha male galloped off towards the other group, then ran back, sounding a low dull warning to his group. The first group took off, their long tails balancing their running gait, as they crossed our path and took refuge in a nearby tree. One of my favourite birds: owls. This is a spotted owl snoozing on its perch in the hollow of a tree. The birdlife at Ranthambore is abundant and populated with many species of the endemic and migratory kinds. 272 species have been documented. Like something out of a Dali painting. A bird of prey sits atop the bald branch of the barren tree. We also spied babblers, bee eaters, brahminy kites, bulbuls, common kingfishers, cormorants, darters, drongos, egrets, herons, ibis, lapwings, moorhens, an osprey, rose-ringed parakeets, partridges, peacocks, pea hens, spotted owls, tree pies and a pink-necked vulture. A rose-necked parakeet winging its way past a bulbul at a watering hole. A peacock with the fort of Ranthambore in the background. The fort rises some 213 meters (700 feet) above the plains. The nature reserve, former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, was named after the fort. According to our guide Hemraj, this island and the area surrounding it is where the bodies of the Mughals and local warriors who perished in an epic battle in the 13th century lie buried. The wild beauty of the place seemed a fitting tribute to the heroic dead.