Lithe bodies that flex athleticism in their slightest movement, kohl-lined eyes which bore through your frame and a visage that arrests the most confident onlooker into awe inspired paralysis is the effect these magnificent creatures have on all those who chance upon them.
A restrained fierceness is their most potent weapon and you will not want to know what unsheathing it feels like. In this series, Sher Bagh brings you a selection of our most prominent tigers, who are regularly seen and whose presence in the wilds of Ranthambhore continues to give us hope for the future of the Park and of wild tigers everywhere.
Junglee (T41, aka Laila) is this week’s feature in the Living Legends of Ranthambhore Series. Not only has this tigress survived a tough and troubled childhood, she now has the distinction of being Ranthambhore’s latest mother. Only a few weeks ago, she was seen accompanying her first cub.
Junglee began life in the riparian recesses of Berda and Semli, her mother, the Berda Tigress (T4); an exotic looking creature, died prematurely in the Spring of 2008 aged about 5, leaving behind Junglee and her brother (T40), barely a year old at the time. The duo displayed an amazing propensity to survive the trauma, both growing into fit, prime adults. Junglee, like other tigers in the wild, called upon all her primordial skills and genetic wisdom to not merely survive but take over every inch of her mother’s range. Today, she is often seen traversing the territory in the four points of Bakaula, Berda, Lambi and Semli; an area rich in game and dotted with superb cover, perennial water sources, and a perfect landscape for her to bring up her young one.
Junglee is a ‘total tiger’, an embodiment of fierceness, detachment and power the human mind imagines a tiger to be. Not as exhibitive as the Lake tigers, Junglee’s form, body and temperament are a class apart. She may not be Ranthambhore’s most seen tigress but arguably, she is the Parks most sought after beauty. Who at Sher Bagh can forget her long and playful probing of pilgrim’s pennants left behind at Bhanwar Deh’s old shrine by worshippers from days gone by? Or the memories preserved, of the winter morning when she and her brother stalked and played alongside our jeep, oblivious of our presence. But that was then, nostalgic evocations for a remarkable and stunning representative of her species. Today, Junglee is a mother, a preoccupied parent, perhaps shier than she once was but glowing in the attentions of motherhood. Every time we drive up to Bakaula in the summer, there is an expectation, a rasping hope that her visage will emerge from the jamun groves or a long trail of water will lead us to her presence.
No story of Junglee’s is complete without reference to Babur (T6, aka Romeo), her paramour and mate, the only tiger one knows of in desperate love! His entire existence spent following up her trail or roaring away in the hope that his calls will summon her to him. As the likely father of Junglee’s cub, his pursuit has hardly been in vain.
Meanwhile, here’s to celebrating Ranthambhore’s newest mother and (in my personal opinion), the most stunning tigress in the universe!
Read more about Junglee and her sightings on our Facebook page.
Written by Yusuf Ansari
Photographs from the Sher Bagh archives.