For centuries, Ranthambhore and it’s fortress have been a space for historic contest. Two conflicts that stand out were Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi’s siege of the fort which began in 1299 and ended in 1301 and the Mughal emperor Akbar’s conquest of the fort in 1568.
Four hundred and fifty years on, the Ranthambhore of today is a setting for a very different cast of characters who are still in contest for territorial control of this unique ecosystem, tigers.
We all know tigers are territorial animals. Territory sizes vary from region to region and within the greater Ranthambhore tiger habitat of nearly 1800 square kilometres, the average size of an adult male tigers territory can be anything upwards of 50 square kilometres and often twice that. Cover, water, prey and the presence of mates are all important determinants for a prime tiger territory and in Ranthambhore such habitat is plentiful and so are the tigers who compete for it.
So let’s take an introductory look into some of the burgeoning conflicts, competition and trends as they exist, between some of Ranthambhore’s current males. With a large number of young males all fairly evenly matched in terms of size, age and ferocity the stage is set for some fierce territorial competition in the coming months.
Pacman (T85) was the only male cub in T19’s second litter and for a short he held on to a sliver of her prized Lake Territory – tenaciously pushing against his father’s (T28) space. With the arrival of another tiger, T91 on the scene, T28 was driven out by the combined pressures of both his own cub and the new arrival. The stage was set for a confrontation between Pacman and the recently arrived upstart T91. To the surprise of observer’s, it was Pacman who had to suffer bruises and eventually (though he did so stubbornly) leave the area. He now stays on the highlands above the lakes, perhaps waiting for an opportunity to strike out a new range for himself. In the interim T91 has himself been driven out by the even bigger newcomer Tank (T86). But more about him later.
In another part of the park another newcomer, also approximately five years of age has already spread his scent, and sown his seed in spectacular fashion. T57, also known as Qiledar – or Master of the Fort – appeared in the scene within weeks of the translocation of the areas famous male Ustad (T24). With no serious contender to oppose him T57 found a ready mate in the formidable tigress Noor (T39), in one section of his new territory. T57 is without a doubt the father of Noor’s litter of three female cubs. Further along the same range he also found time to mate with T60 of the Mango family who in turn has given birth to three more cubs, two of whom are males, and in this latter family lies the potential claimant for T57’s so far peacefully acquired kingdom. T60’s dominant male, like his siblings, is weeks – if not days – away from moving away from mother and finding his own territory. His first and most obvious rival – like Pacman’s case – is going to be his father. It remains to be seen how soon this happens but for now Qiledar can continue to lie on his laurels.
At a completely different end of the Park and towards the rich, evergreen patches of Bakaula another conflict is growing and this is one to watch now. With the disappearance of their mother T17, her cubs managed to survive and have grown into adults. Her daughter T73 took over her territory and has two cubs of her own now. T74 and T75, the two males have separated from each other with the latter staking claim to the rich range which was once their mothers. But the arrival of Mustanda (T64) was something he had not counted on. Mustanda – which loosely means Ruffian – has not received that title for nothing. He has clashed, and defeated a string of heavy-weight rivals already namely Zalim (T25), Star (T28), T91 and T74. It remains to be seen whether his string of victories will continue or whether he may finally meet his match in T75 who will do all he can to hold on to his mother’s game rich territory.
For now, watch this space!