9th April 2011
Ranthambhore National Park  

In the morning safari, some jeeps had seen a pair of tigers walking form Zone 1 of the park towards the Kalapani anicut in Zone 6. Come evening, we booked a jeep for Zone 6 and found two mating tigers (T24 male and T39 female – both young adults) on a rocky plateau across the Kalapani anicut.

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The plateau had short grass cover and a few low trees. The sun was behind the tigers and the backlight was very strong. Most of the time the tigers were in the shade and were no good for photography. After about half an hour the tigress suddenly got up and started stalking towards the edge of the plateau.

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A Sloth Bear with two small cubs riding on her back was walking towards the mating pair of tigers and the tigress had gone to confront them. By the time the mother bear realised that there were tigers close by, the tigress had got very close to them.

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The bear appeared to be in serious trouble and we expected her to bolt away but she had other plans. The bear cubs flattened themselves on the mother’s back while the mother charged at the approaching tigress.

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I don’t think that the tigress expected the bear to charge and was now trying to get out of what was a messy situation for the both of them. The bear blocked the cat’s path and stood up on her hind legs to confront the tigress. By this time the tigress was desperate to get out of the confrontation and just kept backing off. T39 is a young tigress who probably did not have the experience to take on a desperate mother bear.

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The bear started screaming loudly and got increasingly aggressive. Soon there was a loud slanging match between the two, which the bear won, and the tigress beat a hasty retreat while the bear stood her ground.

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This is when the male tiger who was observing the drama from a distance decided to get involved. T24 is about four years old and had just come into dominance. We were now worried for the bear.

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But as it came to pass we had seriously underestimated the power of an angry mother. T24, the young male star of southern Ranthambhore, could not even budge the bear. These two had another loud slanging match that again went in the bear’s favour.

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T24 soon realised the fury of an angry mother and started backing away from what was now a “one-sided” fight and did not stop till he reached a safe distance.

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All this happened in exactly two minutes and ten seconds. When the clock started it seemed that the mother bear had got herself into a very dangerous spot. In ten seconds she had taken control and two minutes later she had forced two tigers to back off. The victor walked off leaving behind two sheepish cats.

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