Wild tigers are scarce. With only around 4k left in the wild, opportunities to see them in their jungle home are hard to come by. Combine this fact with tigers occupying huge territories (males up to 100 sq km), their crepuscular behaviour, supreme camouflage, stealthy movement and shy nature, one can appreciate why they can be so hard to find.
Fortunately, in some reserves, individuals habits have become known, and to a degree, they have become accustomed to our presence. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, India, is one such place, where tigers can be seen relatively easily. These unique individuals offer us a rare insight into normally secret lives.
The 12th April 2016 was a day to remember. We had been working the core zone of the reserve for much of our time, but my guide knew of a location where a legendary male known as Scarface frequents an artificial waterhole. It was here where we sat and baked in the 40 degree sun for hours before he graced us with his presence.
All jeeps were facing the waterhole, expecting him to appear from within the jungle. Surprising us all, he walked across the road to the left of us, without making a sound. Visitors were so shocked to see such a large male, so close that hardly any photos were taken. I think everyone was taken aback. He moved through the thickets of bamboo towards the water.
He eventually reached the pool, reversed and sat in the cool water and pierced us all with his eyes.
According to locals, the majority of his dis-figuration was caused via a confrontation with a Gaur (Indian Bison), perhaps as well as fights with other males to protect his territory. We can’t be sure, and those scares surely tell of more encounters that were not seen. He is believed to be one of the largest male tigers in India, perhaps weighing between 200 and 250kg.
Having such a large and powerful male around offers protection to the females in the areas he occupies and defends. A little later in the evening, once Scarface had left, we were fortunate to have seen a beautiful emerald eyed tigress named Sharmeele (translates to the shy one) appearing at the same waterhole.
She carefully moved through the bamboo thickets and sat down for a much needed drink.
As she sat and lapped up the water, my guide stated that as she looked quite relaxed, there was a chance we might see her three little cubs…