Mystery surrounds the disappearance of four big cats — a tigress and her three 18-month-old (almost-adult) cubs — from the Tala zone of eastern Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve since early February.
Bandhavi, as the tigress is known to forest officials and guides, was a denizen of the Tala zone for 13 years and was among 32 identified tigers in the zone. She and her cubs can be recognised by forest officials and guides, who are baffled by her absence.
For the past year-and-a-half, Bandhavi and her cubs or their pug marks could be sighted by tourists almost everyday.
But it has now been more than two months since the feline and her young ones have not been seen.
“The tigress was a major attraction for tourists. She never left the area in the past 13 years and could be seen either in the Chakradhara meadow of around the Bahdhavgarh Fort,” said a worried Rajesh Dwivedi, president of the Bandhavgarh forest guides’ association.
Forest department officials, who did not want to be named, said a fire in the Chakradhara area that destroyed the grasslands has forced Bandhavi to relocate to another area.
But CK Patil, director of the tiger reserve disagreed. “This is the tigress’s fourth litter. She has on previous occasions moved out of her territory to introduce her cubs to a new habitat. She might be doing the same this time as her cubs are now old enough to leave her. She is being tracked by elephant patrols and is safe,” he said.