Lifescapes Gallery

4 / Oct / 2013
The Tiger that Plays Possum!
Plain Tiger Butterfly, Kabini Photograph: Isaac Kehimkar Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

The Tiger that Plays Possum!

While visitors to the forests of Kabini are always advised to keep an eye out for a tiger lurking in the underbrush, not all tigers in the area are big cats slinking past on a predatory evening prowl. There are also tiny little ones who don’t just eschew the dark, but go out of their way to be visible when they traipse around by day, looking for a convivial peg or two of honey. Welcome to the world of the Plain Tiger Butterfly, one of the most widely dispersed specimens of butterfly in the world. These little ‘tigers’ wear their tawny markings proudly, and fly low at a stately speed to advertise their presence to all potential predators. While those in the know avoid them like the plague, those who are still wet behind the ears often make the mistake of attacking them, but that’s a mistake they never repeat again. When attacked, the Plain Tiger plays possum, and lies ‘dead’ oozing a nauseating liquid that smells terrible and tastes worse, sending the potential diner reeling for a barf bag. The tough, leathery skin acts as armour, and once released, the butterfly ‘miraculously’ recovers to resume its quest for the floral ambrosia it loves so much. In fact, this is such an effective defence mechanism that other forms of edible butterflies try to mimic the Plain Tiger’s looks and demeanour to escape predation. This beautiful, yet spunky creature has been around a rather long time, with a 3500 year old Egyptian fresco in Luxor being celebrated as the oldest artistic impression of the Plain Tiger. When one watches, enraptured as this far from ‘plain’ being flutters gracefully on its honey-quest, one is reminded of Blake’s immortal words, albeit written for the big cat its named after, “Tiger, tiger burning bright, in the forests of the night…”

We at Orange County have loved sharing this story with you, and shall bring you one every fortnight, as part of our Responsible Tourism Initiatives to raise awareness about the nature and culture of the environments we operate in.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 4th, 2013 at 5:05 am and is filed under Insects . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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User Comments
  1. Dr Suresh Rao says:

    We had a nice time at Kabini ; The ambiance and service was great; We were fortunate to see the tiger at close range and kept following him for 45mts

  2. G. Rafi says:

    Even Mother Nature is kind to Coorg – and we should be not only humble, but proud of this grace.

  3. Sanjeeta says:

    I eagerly wait for ur posts … beautifully written …bring back all memories … Thank u.. Have saved them to share them with all..

  4. Nilesh Shah says:

    Kabini is God’s Nature gift to Karnataka & Orange County is a gift to India for Very Good Hospitality.

  5. Deepa Manohar Singh says:

    Superb piece of information, beautifully written; could almost visualise the butterfly and it’s actions.

  6. yashna says:

    A good article. Thanks for sharing it. Please do keep sending me such posts.

  7. G. Rafi says:

    Kabini is a God’s gift to Karnataka – we have to treasure this place for Eternity.

  8. abhiyogi says:

    Have seen this butterfly many times, but never knew about the awesome possum tactics! thanks for sharing…

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