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Sariska’s first tiger couple has a past

Big cats come with baggage. Before their fate brought them together to a new home in Sariska, the young animals had formed a pair, reports Jay Mazoomdaar.
None | By Jay Mazoomdaar, Sariska
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2008 02:19 AM IST

Big cats come with baggage. Before their fate brought them together to a new home in Sariska, the young animals had formed a pair. Many in Ranthambhore spotted the Lakrda female mating with a robust collared tiger not far from Malik Talao – the same picturesque water body that made her mother famous as the Lady of the Lake – days before she was moved to Sariska.

While some mistook the tiger for the Kachida male –one of Ranthambhore’s many collared tigers – the bulkier frame was a giveaway. The Lakrda female’s partner was none other than the T10 male, say forest sources, the tiger that preceded her to Sariska on June 28.

Early days still, but Sariska’s first tigress just might be carrying her first litter from her old home. If she shows signs of pregnancy now and goes on to deliver, Sariska might have a second generation of tigers much earlier than expected.

Usually a tigress takes 90-110 days from conception to delivery and the pregnancy becomes apparent by the sixth week. Signs of conception include consumption of grass for folic acid, shrinking habitat and search for safe hideouts. However, both animals being relatively young, the Lakrda female might not get lucky this time. Big cats show high rate of conception when the partners involved are older than five years.

But if the Lakrda female was indeed with the Kachida male, her possible conception may not be good news after all. For male cats don't tolerate cubs of other males. This typical male reaction is triggered by the fact that after conception, a tigress doesn’t mate till her cubs grow up, making herself out of bound for about two years. Though a male tiger show patience with his own cubs, his natural tendency is to kill the young ones of other males so that the tigresses concerned are available again. Tigresses do try to defend their cubs against new males, but, typically, the young ones are safe only when they grow up in their father's territory. Every time the father male loses his territory to a rival male, the cubs are killed.

But there is hope even in such a scenario. Tigresses of exceptional craftiness are known for fooling their male counterparts. The Lakrda female's mother, the venerable Lady of the Lake, tricked many tigers and other adversaries to successfully raise nine tigers in four litters. To protect her first litter in a similar situation, she had been reported to have faked a false estrus to fool a male tiger and saved her cubs. If the daughter can show half the skills, she will anyway have the T10 believe he is responsible for her litter.

Mazoomdaar is an independent journalist

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