“I have been visiting Tadoba since 2011 and was lucky to see Maya every time I visited. Slowly we both developed a bond. Maya then started posing for me.”
What may surprise you is that the ‘Maya’ Dr. Sudhir Gaikwad Inamdar is referring to is a tigress, fondly known as ‘the living legend’ by Tadoba residents. The residents’ fondness for her led the postal department to issue a stamp of Maya and her cub recently.
Inamdar, a 48-year-old resident of Makhmali Talao, Thane, has captured three generations of this tigress’ family.
On the eve of International Tiger Day, a day of awareness as well as celebration, the photographer has shared his prized pictures of the tigers and recalls his memorable moments photographing Maya and her cubs.
“In 2014 and 2015, tiger sightings were rare in Tadoba. Maya was the only tourist attraction. No matter which gate the tourists used to enter from, they would immediately rush to the pandharpouni area to see Maya. For almost two years in a row, Maya was the sole attraction. She raised three cubs in 2015. When the cubs were just three months old, she brought them out into the open for tourists,” says Inamdar
Inamdar’s fine balance between his passion and profession has resulted in award-winning pictures.
“It was my love for the living legend that enabled me to click pictures of the three generations. “I was fortunate enough to photograph her even when she was pregnant and later with her cubs,” he says.
“In December 2015, I went to Tadoba as usual to see Maya. She surprised me in a major way this time. Initially, she used to hide in the bushes, but this time she came out with her cubs and posed for me, giving me the perfect shot,” says Inamdar, speaking about an unforgettable moment with the tigress.
“I am saddened that despite several measures, the tiger population is dwindling fast. Though the government is doing its best to protect them, advanced technology and the animal-human conflict is a big hindrance. To keep a tab on their movements, tigers are made to wear radio collars. However, their large size makes it inconvenient for the animals to wear them. The other reason for their shrinking populating is the encroachment of forest land. They are left with little option but to wander into human habitats,” says Inamdar.
Inamdar’s suggestions to save tigers
Instead of radio collars, which are painful, officials should invest in microchips. The repeated tranquilizations needed to fit the animals with radio collars leads to behavioral problems in these animals.
Control man and animal conflict.
Increase forest cover, buffer areas and their habitat so that they can live freely without fear of human beings.
Stop the invasion of forest boundaries immediately as it takes a toll on the wildlife.
Poaching has been prime reason for the dwindling number of tigers. Hence, this should be controlled immediately, if we want to save them from extinction.
Currently, there are 190 big cats in the state according to the recent census. Efforts should be made to improve their numbers in coming years.