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Modern male single parent tiger bringing up cubs

10/05/2012 09:39:42

Dollar scolds his daughter. Photo credit Balendu Singh

The extraordinarily caring tiger

May 2012. In the sun baked Araveli hills and lakes of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, India, an extraordinary wild drama is being played out.

The well-known and patient tigress, Kachida, had already raised three cubs to full maturity in the park, between 2007 and 2010, putting up with her mature brood well into their adulthood. She was also a favourite to visitors and the park guards, being completely comfortable with humans in her territory.

Balendu Singh, an honorary Wildlife Warden, found Kachida in the small pool behind the Dhakara anicut in late January last year. Soon, two healthy cubs came scampering down to the water's edge calling for their mother. Traces of blood on the mouths and paws confirmed that the cubs had eaten meat from a fresh kill, likely to have been one of their first proper meals, after coming off their mother's milk.

Tragically, only two weeks later, Kachida came within 50 metres of chowki (guard post) and was heard roaring throughout the night, deeply unsettling the forest guards inside. In the cold dawn that morning, the guards found her dead body under a gum tree, after an agonizing death that night from blocked intestines.

Mother found dead through internal haemoraging. Photo credit Balendu Singh

Mother found dead through internal haemoraging. Photo credit Balendu Singh

A frantic search for the now orphaned cubs ensued. What should the authorities do? Experts stressed that her four month old cubs would die without support within a few days - but the cubs had other survival ideas. They feed on the small chunks of meat and water put out for them, and guards were placed on duty day and night to watch them. A zoo was always an option, and as days past when they could not be found concern mounted and everyone feared the worst.

"We feared greatly for their survival" said Yogesh Sahu, the Deputy Field director, in charge of the park.

Remarkable turnaround
Then two months later in May last year, a series of camera trap pictures revealed a most astonishing fact. A large male tiger was captured on camera, walking with the cubs some five kilometres from their den.

Here was their father, the dominant male of the area, out on his regular territorial walk with his own small orphaned cubs. Nothing like this had ever been recorded before. A male tiger, taking on a mother's role - and from such a tender age.

Follow the tiger's story

You can now follow this amazing drama on Tiger Nation with Tiger diaries, photos and videos on all the action in the wild. Dollar is just one of a number of ‘star' wild tiger that can follow on this subscription based web platform, that uses the power of social media and participation to power a revolution in conservation.

Tiger Nation's ‘people-powered' approach, alongside wildlife partners and experts, aims to aid efforts to expand the area in which tigers can thrive across India.  

Story told by Balendu Singh, an Honorary Wildlife Warden, and Yogesh K Sahu, the District Forest Officer of Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan. 

The male tiger, known as Dollar (called because of the dollar shape stripes on his right flank), is often seen hunting and allowing his daughters to eat from his kill, not merely protecting them from other tigers, which is usually the father's only job. Those who have been privileged enough to spot this family have seen the cubs nuzzle a sleeping father who would lift his paw and ‘pat' the cub down near him, in the manner of mother. Recently Dollar come out from the bush, cubs in tow patrolling his territory, spray-marking trees, rolling in the scent left by him or scalding the wrong-doings of his daughters.

The cubs are alive and well today, and history is being well and truly rewritten by this extraordinary father, after nearly a year of fatherly motherhood.

Not yet out of danger
But this does not mean the two cubs are out of danger yet. The worry is that a new female tigress, coming into his prime territory, may well alter his protective and caring behaviour towards his daughters.

Would he stop protecting them? What happens when they mature? Will a transient male kill them first?

More about India's Tigers 

 Father and his daughter walk show huge affection to each other. Photo creit  Balendu Singh


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