Vijaya charmed everyone at the end of the season last week. She had made a small kill of a spotted deer in Chakradhara Meadow near several water sources but hidden amongst dense lush elephant grass, ideal cover for a tigress to stalk through, as unweary deer gather at the water's edge. For several days Vijaya enjoyed her meal and even bought her three little ones to share the feast. They were hardly visible but for the movement of the tall grasses. Now and then the glimpse of an ear or tail as the tigress turned over in the grass to relieve a very full belly.
But the end of June was very hot and with no rain on offer by morning or late afternoon it was time to venture out for a drink. First Vijaya would slowly emerge from the grasses and settle near the edge of a clearing not far from a muddy waterhole. Here she would sit and carefully groom her gleaming golden coat before beckoning her family out. Ears pricked and softly calling to encourage the three to come Vijaya seemed confident and unconcerned at the attention she gathered around her. Slowly slowly out of the dense cover three little faces appear. The first to show its face is a bit unsure however and allows the second in line to approach and nuzzle it’s mother first. The third very shy and a wee bit frightened decides it’s its not the time yet to be too brave and vanishes back out of sight. Yesterday too the family had been seen. Two little ones coming forward into the clearing while the third tentative and snarling would not venture far.
Today, again Vijaya is ready to quench her thirst as two of her offspring stare out of cover. Suddenly Vijaya becomes very alert. She has noticed two patrolling staff on foot on the road hardly yards from where she and the cubs are sitting. This challenge is an unwelcome interruption and soon her cubs are hurrying back into the tall grasses. The tigress too turns and crouches low slinking off in a manner of a leopard rather than a dominant cat. Obviously people on foot are not welcome in Vijaya’s meadow. Minutes later Vijaya emerges again a few yards away and settles under a bamboo clump. It appears the cubs are close by behind a long and that mother wants the family to cross the road and head for the hills. Confident the jeep borne visitors watching are of no concern, yet the patrolling staff want their bicycles and as a further Forest Officer on a motorbike enters the scene all three disturb the tigress once more and she heads off towards the Fort Plateau, her original plans now changed.
As the sun rises higher in the summer sky Vijaya and her family can be seen amongst the dry forest grasses heading towards a cool cave nestled on the hillside. Here they can rest in peace and the cubs can suckle milk. No one on foot will enter these dark cat coverted places for fear of attack. Here Vijaya and her little ones rest a while before returning to the meadow and the remains of the kill.
Sadly by the time we all see them again they will be nearly four months older and a lot bigger.
Lets hope they have a peaceful healthy monsoon and that all will be well in October.