It is raining litters in Ranthambhore National Park; more tiger cubs sighted

Rajasthan's Ranthambhore National Park is turning into a little kingdom of tiger cubs with their number registering an all-time high figure of two dozens. One new cub was discovered on Monday morning in the Sultanpur locality of the park while tiger-watchers insist that T-17, the tigress born to Machli and now called “Sundari” by virtue of her good looks too has turned a mother though photographic evidence on the young ones is awaited.

The Monday morning celebrity was T-39, the daughter of the Sultanpur tigress which had left the park some months back and is now living in the Chambal ravines in Kota and Baran districts of the State. T-39 obviously inherited her mother's terrain in her absence as she was spotted with a cub in that locality (see photo).

“This is an exciting find! I am sure we will have more good news when T-17 comes out in the open with her cubs. I had seen her mating with the male tiger T-25 some time in January. Thereafter she was spotted in the company of another male, T-28. Ever since, the Forest staff in the park had been keeping the date and counting the days as it is approximately 90 days of pregnancy for tiger,” said Bina Kak, Rajasthan's Minister for Environment & Forests, talking to The Hindu. “It is very difficult to decide whether a particular tigress is pregnant or not. They all look the same if the tummy is full,” she noted.

Ms. Kak is especially happy about T-17 as she (the Minister) had insisted on getting the collar round the feline's neck removed. “The decision to remove the collar seemingly worked in reproduction. I want the collars to be removed in the case of the female tigers in Sariska as well so that the existing spell over tiger breeding in that park after the re-introduction of tigers breaks,” she said.

Ms. Kak said if the National Tiger Conservation Authority approves she would move two more tigresses from Ranthambhore to Sariska.

If regular park visitors are to be believed, the number of cubs has reached 22-24 and this means that the average age of Ranthambhore tigers is coming down. The park at present has 34 adult tigers and the water hole census carried out on May 6-7 too had confirmed this. The female tigresses with cubs at present are: T-13, T-5, T-8, T-31, T-9 (all with two cubs each), T-19, T-26, T-11 and T-30 -- all with three cubs each. Yet counting the tiger cubs may be more like counting your eggs before they are hatched. That is why the Forest authorities are often reluctant to give out the numbers of litters at any given time. Perhaps that also explains why they had kept the number of tiger cubs in the park as “over a dozen” after the water hole census this time. “It is a very risky area. All the tiger cubs are not likely to survive and if the figures are given out in advance the media is bound to make a big fuss when the deaths take place due to various reasons,” pointed out Rajpal Singh, Member, Rajasthan Board for Wildlife. “The fact that tigers are breeding copiously in the park is surely very exciting. Even if 60 per cent of the present cub population survives that is going to be a big number,” he added.

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