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SHER BAGH – A season of cubs

Author: Katya Ignatieva

 

As this season at SUJÁN Sher Bagh is almost over, the team have been looking back and reflecting on all the fantastic sightings & adventures in the Ranthambhore wilderness that we have shared with our guests. This season has been particularly interesting as many of our tiger sightings have been of the offspring of some of Ranthambhore’s most legendary big cats. Ranthambhore is rife with sub-adult cubs and in many aspects has turned into a jungle youth club with ill-disciplined young males, catty cat-fights and that transitional adolescent phases of being grown-up yet still mischievous, daring but then still reverting back to mum when needs be!

 

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T41’s male cub. Photograph by Vedant Thite.

 

When the thermometer hits 45 degrees, some mammals reside to what is described as ‘the air-conditioned part of the park’. Descending from the high plateau of dry golden grass and bare dhok trees in zone 4, T41 (Laila) and her single male cub enjoy an oasis of luscious green trees and bushes stretching along a deep ravine with many interconnecting pools of enticing cool water. As the ‘only child’ her cub has not experienced ‘play groups’ and the jostling of sibling rivalry, but in the world of the tiger, this does not seem to be a hindrance and indeed can be an advantage. He is able to bask in his mother’s undivided attention as she teaches him all the skills he will need to become a self-sufficient adult.

 

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Swiped! T39’s cubs have a rift in the golden sunlight. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.
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T39 and her 2 female cubs. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

 

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Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

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One of T60’s male cubs lunging into a watering hole. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

Neighbouring T41’s territory in an area called Semli, this is Krishna (T19’s) territory. Having been ousted from the Raj Bagh Lake area by her daughter (T84), T19 (now 11 years old and an experienced mother) has claimed her territory to the north. On her third litter now, she has two male cubs and one female cub. Krishna’s territory is similar to T41’s, but without the five star luxury of the oasis, instead, she enjoys several water holes and a network of caves situated far from the prying eyes of any intruding male tiger, a place where her cubs often take shelter. Unlike T41’s sub-adult male, Krishna’s cubs, being just under a year old, still look very young with their oversized ears and big eyes. Rather amusingly for our guests, when spotted they often seem very wary and nervous and are easily spooked by the most innocent of things such as a jumping frog or a diving bird! These siblings, we predict, will remain together over the monsoon months.

 

Driving south from Ranthambhore Fort gives our keen safari guests a very different feel for the park. The sun arrives much later in the day, compared to the higher plateaus. The temperature, by comparison, is cool as the long track we drive along is overshadowed by massive, imposing cliffs. There are many areas of the park that see daylight from the moment the sun rises, and there are areas that are in the deep shade until late morning. The black-faced Langurs and Cheetal will only descend from the warm high grounds when the sun is well and truly out and shining! Here in zone 2 resides the much loved tigress Noor (T39) and her three female cubs. This sisterhood is on the verge of breaking up and becoming independent, but in throughout this season, we’ve spent a lot of time watching them all together. On occasion, there is one sub-adult who seems to be left out of the family unit and has the nickname ‘the lonely female’… but maybe she is just more mature than her sisters. It won’t be long before they all go their separate ways and certainly when we return in September we expect them to be out on their own.

 

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Krishna’s cubs cool off in the water together. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

 

Heading further south to the area of Gudha you hit a clear tiger territory line. The landscape flattens out and becomes sparse, less visible water and therefore less vegetation. Here reside two male cubs of T60. These sub-adults are almost fully grown, and they seem to be on the verge of packing their bags and heading their separate ways. At the start of the season back in October we were already seeing them venturing out more and more unaccompanied by their mother, so it’s only a matter of time that they finally make that leap. They are magnificent males to watch wonder through the wilderness.

 

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A shaggy coated sloth bear cub. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.
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A sloth bear cub, not afraid of heights! Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

 

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Photograph by Anjali Singh.
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Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.

 

Whilst many of our guests come here in search of the majestic tiger, all leave having been enriched by so many other wonderful wildlife sightings too. We’ve had fantastic sloth bear sightings, including many Sher Bagh guests spotting small bear cubs adorably clinging onto their mothers back, as they wonder climbing trees and foraging for termites. We’ve also had unusual, personal and up close sightings of leopards this season. These graceful cats usually tend to stick to higher ground in Ranthambhore away from the tigers but this season they seem to have been venturing down a lot more, sharing hugely exciting safari moments. As well as these terrestrial animals, Ranthambhore birdlife never ceases to disappoint. Every avian exists as part of a vibrant ecosystem teeming with all manner of flora and fauna, and with 360 species of birds, every guest has had their fair share of incredible viewings, such as a serpentine eagle making a kill of a snake, 2 spotted owlets huddled together in a tree cavity, vultures circling the skies, green bee-eaters smashing the heads of their prey against the bark of a tree.. the list goes on. All in all, the experiences and memories made here in Ranthambhore never seem to foil, with the wildlife being so unpredictable you never know what you might stumble upon.

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