It was a reason to rejoice for Tiger lovers across the globe last month when Tigress Krishna (T-19) of Ranthambhore presented her new litter of 4 cubs to the world. The occasion called for unprecedented celebrations since this was the first instance in 15 years, of a Tigress littering 4 cubs in Ranthambhore.
Krishna is one heck of a bold Tigress who loves to hog the limelight and never shies away from roving eyes. Unlike most Tigresses, she brought out the cubs into the open when they were 5-6 weeks old, without a care in the world. No wonder the paparazzi thronged the lake area of Raj Bagh to get a glimpse of the new arrivals. Apparently, it seems that Tourists who normally do not get to pick & choose the zone, managed to grease a few palms to sneak into Zone 3. Documentary film makers, amateur & professional wildlife photographers, relatives of VIPs on a free ride into the park had a field day either shooting footage of the mother ushering her cubs to all parts of Raj Bagh or just sighting them in all their glory. The Lake area which had supposedly been barren ever since the unfortunate departure of Tigress Sundari (T-17), seemed to have got a new lease of life. And then, it happened.
All hell broke loose when the paparazzi started getting in the way of the Tigress & denying her right of way to get their dream images. Unfortunately, one of the cubs got scared of a few vehicles laden with film makers as well as the free riders with mobile-phone cameras and got separated from his mother in the melee that ensued. Sadly, clamouring for the best location and angle seemed be of utmost importance to the film makers rather than the well being of their subjects.
The very next day came the heart breaking news of the Tigress being sighted with only 3 cubs while the fourth one went missing. It is speculated that the cub that got separated from the mother probably fell victim to the most dangerous residents of the Lakes, the large Marsh Crocodiles. The Tigress seemed to be growling in agony, desperately in search of her young one but to no avail.
As a part of the damage control exercise, the Forest Department eventually decided to close Zone 3 for tourists and sanity seems to have prevailed. While this post isn’t intended to show film makers / photographers / tourists in poor light, we are seriously in need of questioning ourselves if our acts are detrimental or key to conservation of the species ?
While the joy of a litter of 4 Tiger cubs (after a decade and a half in the history of Ranthambhore) seems to have been short-lived, we wonder if the lessons have been learned at the cost of losing a precious little one forever……………