News from Ranthambhore and its surroundings

Sundari or Sattra or T 17 - A wild tiger's story

Stalking ranthambore tiger

The three sisters – “Satara”, “Athara” and “Unnis” (or 17, 18 and 19 in Hindi) were born during the monsoon months (July to September) of 2006. They were the three female cubs of Machali’s (T16) last litter and T 2, who was then the most dominant male of Ranthambhore, was the father. These three cubs (numbered T 17, T 18 and T 19) were first seen, fleetingly and from a distance, by a tourist vehicle in the end of October 2006, when the cubs were really small. However, it was only in December 2006 that we started seeing them regularly. I had my first great sighting of this family in early January 2007 and since then have been seeing them regularly. Right from the beginning T 17 was the dominant one of the three cubs.

When these three cubs were born, Bahadur and Sharmelee, Machali’s male and female cub from the last litter, were still living within Machali’s territory. In other words they were yet to separate from their mother. After these three cubs were born Machali became very intolerant of Sharmelee and would chase her away whenever she found her close to the younger cubs. At the same time she would tolerate Bahadur and would even let him stay in close proximity to the new cubs. Soon Sharmelee took over Lakkarda, which till them was part of Machali’s territory and would rarely cross over to the lakes, where Machali stayed with her younger cubs. Bahadur stayed with Machali and the new cubs for a few months and then drifted off to establish his territory in another part of the park.

tiger family in ranthambore

During their initial months Machali mostly kept the cubs between the lakes and Nalghati and rarely ventured out of this area. This area has a high density of Sambar deer (India’s largest deer species) and Machali brought these cubs up largely on a diet of Sambar deer. These cubs were born about a year or two after Ranthambhore was badly hit by organized gangs of poachers and the overall tiger density had dropped in Ranthambhore. As a result this family did not have many aggressive neighbors to deal with. Soon after the cubs became slightly bigger she started taking them all over her large territory.

T 17, right from the early days was the dominant litter of this family. By December 2007 she started staying away from the rest of the family for days on end while her other two sisters stayed with the mother. By early 2008, T 17 had established a small territory around the base of the Ranthambhore fort, while her two sisters were still living with their mother. Occasionally T 17 would go back to the family though she was capable of being on her own. By the summers of 2008, T 17 had become totally independent. Her other two sisters took another few months to separate from their mother. 

Around the summers of 2008, there was serious moves to “relocate” tigers from Ranthambhore to Sariska (a tiger reserve close by that had lost all its tigers to poaching) and a number of tigers were identified for this relocation – Sharmelee and T 17 were some of them. As part of the process these identified tigers, including T 17, were fitted with a radio collar for tracking them. Sharmelee was relocated to Sariska in early July and Lakkarda area was left open for any tiger to take over. We thought that T 17 or one of her sisters would take this part of the over but this was not to be.

wild tiger in india

During the winter months of 2008 Satara was fully grown up and confident enough to expand her territory. To everyone’s surprise she started fighting with her mother Machali for Machali’s territory. This war of succession ended in T 17’s favor after Machali left the area of the lakes to establish her base in Lakkarda, where she still lives.  Soon T 17 took over most of Machali’s territory except for two small parts - Lakkarda, which was left for Machali and parts of Mandoop, which her sister T 19 took over. Her third sister T 18, had just about established her territory in the Nalghati - Phoota Banda – Phoota Kot area, when she too was relocated to Sariska.

From the end of 2008 till now (beginning of 2012) Satara has been ruling the area of the lakes and large adjoining parts. For the last three years she has been the most frequently sighted tiger in Ranthambhore. Like her mother, Satara is not shy of vehicles and often gets too close for comfort. The only drawback was that she had an ugly (and damaged) radio collar fitted in her neck. This collar was finally taken off in November 2011. 

Over the last three years Satara has often mated with four different males but has not had any litter as yet.  She always shared her territory with three different males (T 12, T 25 and T 28 earlier, before T 12 was relocated to Sariska and T 24 took over his territory) and this may be the reason she has not had any cubs.  During the early summers of 2011, when T 5 – the dominant female of Kachida died of natural causes, Satara started expanding into the Kachida valley, which was T 5’s territory. Right now Satara probably has one of the largest territories amongst all the females in the Ranthambhore national park, a territory rivaled in size only by that of her sister T 19.

 

Mottled Wood Owl

I saw a Mottled Wood Owl (Strix ocellata) in Ranthambhore national park after nearly two year. The Owl was roosting on a branch of a Khirni tree (Manikara hexandra) on the way to High Point inside the Ranthambore national park.

Aditya Singh

Mottled wood owl

 

 

Machali or T 16 - A wild tigers story

machali tiger ranthambore

Machali or T 16 was born sometimes during the monsoons of 1997. She was the dominant cub amongst a litter of 3 females. I moved to Ranthambhore in 1998 and she was one of the first cubs that I saw in Ranthambhore. Since then I have had a strong emotional attachment to her. Machali in Hindi means “fish”. She was initially known as the “Jhalara tigress” after an area called Jhalara, which was the heart of her initial territory. A BBC documentary “renamed” her Machali, originally the name of her mother. Her mother was called Machali (or fish) because she had a mark on her right cheek that took the outline of a fish. The "present" Machali or T 16 has a mark on her left cheek that resembles and outline of a table fork. (see picture below).

Machali ranthambhore tigress

By the end of 1998, Machali and her two sisters had separated from their mother and had established their independent territories.  Machali started off with a small part of her mother’s territory and gradually expanded it to include all the three lakes, a large part of Mandoop plateau, Lakkarda and adjoining areas. She soon had the largest territory of all the female tigers in Ranthambhore. (Highlighted area in map below)

machli tigers territory in ranthambore

Sometimes in the end of summers 2000, Machali gave birth to a liter of two male cubs  – called Broken Tail and Slant Ear. “Bamboo Ram” who at that time was the largest and the most dominant male tiger of Ranthambhore sired them. By the end of 2001 both Broken Tail and Slant Ear had separated and Slant Ear was never seen again. Broken Tail initially survived at the edge of the national park and in the summers of 2003 he moved on to another forest almost a 100 miles away, where a passenger rain ran him down in August 2003.

Soon after Broken Tail and Slant Ear separated Machali mated again with a male tiger called “Nick Ear” who had taken over Bamboo Ram’s territory after Bamboo died of old age.  I saw Machali with three small cubs in pouring rain, one of which she was carried in her mouth on the 30th June 2003, on the last safari before the park was closed for the monsoon rains. She was taking them away from a cave in a place called Nalghati, where they were born, to higher ground, as this area is prone to flooding. When the park re-opened after the monsoon months in October we saw just two of these three cubs – a male called Jhumroo and a female called Jhumree. 

Ranthambhore experienced a severe drought during 2004 and 2005, when most of the waterholes in the park dried out, including two of the three lakes. This was the time when Jhumroo and Jhumree were coming of age. During these two year Machali had some spectacular interactions with crocodiles around the dried or drying lakes and in all of these interactions the crocodiles ended up dead. By the end of summers of 2004 even Jhumroo was killing and eating crocodiles. However, such interaction with crocodiles did take a toll on Machali and by 2005, when she was nearly 8 years old she had lost two of her four canines. We were getting worried about Machali’s ability to hunt larger prey but she proved us wrong. By the beginning of 2005 Machali turned aggressive towards Jhumree and pushed her off to one fringe of her territory. We never saw her again. Soon after she pushed Jhumroo out of her territory and Jhumroo mover on to an area called Lahpur, where he still reigns. 

ranthambhore tiger family

Around March 2005 Machali gave birth to a third set of litter of one male and one female cub, called Bahadur (brave in Hindi) and Sharmelee (shy in Hindi). Their father was a male called the T 2 or X male (so called because we knew very little about him and he was hardly ever seen). Till now Machali had brought most of her cubs up on Sambar deer kills that were made mostly in the tall grasses at the edge if the lakes or in the many dry stream beds that were found in her territory. While bringing up her third and fourth litter she showed a preference for smaller sized prey, especially deer fawns, that were easier to kill. At that time we thought that she was avoiding large sized prey because she had lost two of her canines but this was not true, as we learnt later on. She was going for deer fawn because they were easy to kill and they were plentiful, after the end of the long drought. Bahadur is till in the park, while Sharmelee was one of the first tigers to be “relocated” to Sariska tiger reserve, after Sariska lost all its tigers to poachers. I took to serious photography around the same time when these cubs were born.

During the summers of 2006, Machali, to our surprise, gave birth to her fourth litter of three female cubs – called T 17, T 18 and T 19.  Like her third litter, X male also sired these three cubs. When the cubs were small Machali would not let Sharmelee come even close to them but she tolerated Bahadur. Bahadur was often seen sitting calmly close to Machali and her three new cubs, while Sharmelee was almost always chased away by Machali. For the next two years Machali and her three cubs delighted visitors to Ranthambhore. These three cubs stayed on with their mother for nearly two full years and it was only in the summers of 2008 that they started separating.  While T 17 and T 19 carved out the bulk of Machali’s territory between them, leaving only a small area in Lakkarda for Machali, T 18 established herself in Phoot Kot just outside the southern edge of Machali’s territory. Soon T 18 was also “relocated” to Sariska.

tiger family in ranthambore

machali tiger ranthambore

From 2009 till now Machali has survived in a small territory in Lakkarda where she still lives. The territory may be small but it has a few permanent water holes, many places to hide (cover) and lots of prey – all that a tiger need to survive. Machali is a survivor.

 

By Aditya "Dicky" Singh

 

Greetings from Ranthambhore

Hope you have a wild and action packed 2012....with tigers on your tail...

charging tiger

Seasons greetings

Seasons greeting from all of us at The Ranthambhore Bagh. 

T 19 has a litter of three cubs (two males and one female) - three newbies to Ranthambhore tiger reserve

Aditya Singh's interview in Education Times


Publication: The Times Of India Mumbai;  Date: Dec 20, 2011;  Section: Education Times;  Page: 44 


EXPERT EYE
Snapshots in the wild
Giving up a high salaried conventional career in civil services, Aditya Singh followed his heart to become a wildlife photographer. Seema Khinnavar trails his journey

    Winner of this year’s Sanctuary Call of the Wild Photography Award, Aditya Singh, is a true case of following one’s heart. Like every ‘good’ student, Singh was readying himself for a steady income job in the civil services. However, he soon realised that civil services was not his true calling and moved to Ranthambhore to set up a tourism business. He talks about his passion for wildlife photography.

How was the transition from engineering to civil service to wildlife photography?

While studying for civil service exam, I did not really know what I wanted to do in life. I cleared the exams and even completed my training. However, I soon quit and moved to Ranthambhore to practice my hobby of wildlife photography. What started of as a hobby became a serious passion and I am now trying hard to turn it into a profession.

What is the scope of a career in wildlife photography?

Wildlife photography on its own does not offer many career opportunities. There are less than 20 professional wildlife photographers in the world. However, spin offs of wildlife photography is becoming big business all over, even in India. These include business of running photography workshops, photo safaris and so on. One has to keep in mind that wildlife photography is a specialisation in the larger field of photography. There are lots of career opportunities in photography and they are growing.

Photographic skills apart, what other qualities that wildlife photographer should have? Is there a specific course for wildlife photography?

You have to be a naturalist to be a wildlife photographer. If you do not know the subject (wildlife in this case) then chances are that you will never become a decent wildlife photographer. You also need to be very patient. Success will not come overnight and it may take years to get a decent portfolio of wildlife images. There are lots of courses for photography but sadly none for wildlife photography in India. Most wildlife photographers all over the world are self taught.

What kind of assignments can students interested in wildlife photography take up?

Lately many Indian media publications are offering

paid assignments for wildlife photographers. However, most of the times one is shooting stock images that may or may not be published. One usually gives these stock images to image libraries for sale and gets paid as and when they sell.

What advice would you give to those who want to pursue wildlife photography seriously?

Learn the technical part of photography, which I think is the east part, before you even head to the field. Keep at it and keep experimenting. It takes a long time to get good. And yes it is very expensive so get a budget together.

What are you working on currently?

I do a lot of work as a field assistant for documentary film makers and right now am working on three such projects. These documentaries will soon be broadcasted on National Geographic, BBC, Discovery and Animal Planet. I am also working on building up my photo base of Ranthambhore, something that I have been doing for a decade.

Does tiger tourism really help in the conservation of the forest or is it a mere nuisance for the animals?

Yes. Whether we admit it or not wildlife tourism is the most potent conservation tool in India. See the tiger population. It has stayed stable in the popular tiger parks for over two decades, while tigers were getting decimated in the lesser known reserves. The popular tourist parks are saturated with tigers and have stayed that way for over two decades while the increase in numbers could not be absorbed by adjoining forests where tourists do not go. Tourism all over the world is seen as a potent conservation tool while in India it is seen as a menace. I find it surprising that something that works all over the world fails to do so in India. There must be something wrong in our policy for that to happen.

 


Aditya Singh’s award winning picture of a confrontation between a mother sloth bear and a tiger

bear tiger fight, ranthambhore, ranthambore

12th Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2011

Aditya Singh - won the highly coveted "Santcuary Asia Wildlife Photographer of the year 2011 award" for this picture of a mother bear with two young cubs on her back fighting off a male tiger in the Ranthambhore national park. 

wild Bear tiger fight

Read more about this incident

Aditya also won a "Highly Commended" award in the same competition for this picture of a Spotted Owlet flying in Ranthambore.

Spotted owlet in flight

You can see the awards ceremony that was covered by NDTV at the following link:

12th-sanctuary-wildlife-awards 

Keep going Aditya - we are looking forward to seeing more such moments.

Frequently seen tigers of the tourism area of Ranthambhore - from October 2011 onwards

Here are the identification photographs and range of the frequently seen tigers of Ranthambhore national park in India. Since the national park reopened in October 2011 for visitors - these 10 have been the most frequently sighted tigers in the rousim zone of Ranthambhore.

T 13 Ranthambhore tiger

T 6 Ranthambore tiger

Machali Ranthambore tiger

T 17 Ranthambhore tiger

T 19 Ranthambhore tiger

T 25 Ranthambore tiger

T 28 Ranthambhore tiger

T 29 Ranthambore tiger

T 24 Ranthambhore tiger

T 41 Ranthambhore tiger