There was a time when seeing a Kabini Tiger warranted extended celebration of the event. It was 2011, and I had been going to Kabini for 8 years already and had seen a Tiger on just three occasions. Kabini was and is still known as the land of Leopards, and rightly so; coming up against this spotted cat is a fairly common occurrence. Tigers here though, were extremely shy, and seeing one was no easy task. Come the monsoon of 2011, on one of my regular afternoon safari drives, we stumbled upon a young Tigress resting in an open patch of land. We considered ourselves fortunate for not just seeing a Tiger, but seeing one in the monsoons when food and water was aplenty and there was no reason for these elusive cats to show up in the open. It started to rain, and as a few more tourist vehicles arrived on the scene, I was sure that the graceful cat would disappear into thicker cover. She didn’t. That day we knew this cat was different. And special.
Since that fateful day, I have had the good luck to see this Tigress on several occasions, and have spent many hours observing her from close quarters. She has the boldness that can rival a warrior’s, and has enthralled many a tourist with her presence over the years. Over the years, she came to be known popularly as the TT tigress (with TT standing for Tiger Tank), as she frequents this particular water body and has established her territory centred about it. Her emergence really changed the perception of Kabini as a place only for Leopards, and soon as if on cue more bold Tigers appeared on the scene and Kabini started to draw crowds from around the world for its fabulous tiger sightings. The TT tigress then went into hiding for a few months towards the end of 2015, and when she reappeared in early 2016, she had her cubs for company. Her three cubs, clearly carrying her genes, turned out to be as confident as their mother in the presence of tourist vehicles, and for the first time in my memory Kabini was delighting wildlife enthusiasts with frequent sights of playful cubs.
I have personally seen the cubs not caring the presence of vehicles as they play fought, stalked prey, and drank from small puddles of water bang in the middle of broken roads. The cubs have by now grown up into well sized sub-adults, and on my last visit to Kabini earlier this month, I noticed that one of the male cubs has even begun to venture out into the depths of the forest on his own, clearly indicating that it won’t be long before he wanders off entirely in an attempt to set up his own territory and the hope of siring his own offspring. Two other cubs still live by their mother and she continues to fend for them and entertains their fun and frolic. As the summer approaches, and heat continues to rise, Kabini is sure to witness more amazing sights of the forest’s first family as I like to call it, and I am definitely going back soon to catch one last glimpse of the family together before the cubs go their separate ways.
However, all is not lost as the cubs clearly seem to be bolder than their mother, and hopefully if at least one of them settles within the tourism zone of the forest, it will only be fair to expect the legacy and saga of the family to continue for years to come.