Land of the Tiger

Synopsis: Explore the strange and mysterious world of the tiger.
Genre: Documentary
  1 win.
60 min


It is winter in Kanha National Park

in central India.

These very same grasslands and

forests were the inspiration

for Rudyard Kipling's immortal

Jungle Book stories.

The spirit of wild India that

he evoked still lives here.

Kanha National Park is

prime tiger country.

Sixty years ago its 363 square miles

were part of vast primordial forests.

Since then these forests have been

denuded on a gigantic scale.

But Kanha has been preserved

in its pristine state.

The tiger still roars here,

still spreads his dread.

Just before dawn

this male tiger killed a sambar stag.

Now, a few hours later,

he drags his prize into deep cover

to hide it

from the prying eyes of vultures.

Like all of his kind he is solitary

for most of his life

a lone hunter who lives by stealth.

The night has been cold.

The gray langur monkeys,

after their first meal of the day,

rest and groom each other

in the warmth of the early sun.

winter is the season of birth

for most langurs.

This newborn, only a few hours old,

is the center of attraction.

The new member of the troop is passed

from one female to another

as many as ten times in half an hour.

It is treated with great curiosity

and affection.

This "aunt" behavior, as it is called,

inducts the infant into the troop,

makes it feel welcome and secure.

The monsoon rains ceased

more than two months ago.

But along the streams the vegetation

is still green.

Grass-shrouded water holes are

perfect hiding places

from which the tiger tries

to ambush the chital.

Despite his power and camouflage

the tiger often fails to make a kill.

Only about one hunt in twenty

ends in success.

In mid-January, when winter

is at its coldest,

the rut of the barasingha

reaches its peak.

During this season of courtship

and mating,

stages bugle and fight

to establish who among them

will mate with the does.

A tigress watches the combat

from her cave

where she is hiding newborn cubs.

Helpless young with great fierceness

and devotion.

It will be some weeks before she will

bring her cubs out into the open.

For the most part, Kanha's tigers

remain elusive and mysterious,

concealed by the dense undergrowth

and the jungles of grass.

But in Ranthambhor National Park

370 miles to the northwest,

the habitat is drier and more open.

In February, early spring in India,

Ranthambhor's 64 square miles

are already parched.

The monsoon rains are only

a vague memory.

But cradled in the hills is

a chain of lakes,

and it is because of this permanent

water that wild animals flourish here.

Unlike pristine Kanha,

Ranthambhor has a long history

of human occupation

dating back to the 11th century.

Dominating the reserve

is Ranthambhor fort.

Now deserted by man, the fort

has become the haunt of animals.

Centuries ago it was the focal point

of a vigorous city.

Battles raged back and forth

over the hills.

In more recent times villages thrived

deep inside Ranthambhor.

But their inhabitants have also gone.

They were encouraged to settle

on better land outside the park.

Monuments to forgotten dramas

dot the reserve.

This stone marks the spot where

a widow committed suttee

where she burned herself alive

on her husband's funeral pyre.

Only the ruins remain.

Man has moved out of Ranthambhor after

almost a thousand years

and returned it to the wildlife.

On this cool spring morning it is not

an ancient warrior who keeps vigil,

but a tigress on the lookout for sambar,

her favorite prey.

When the sambar lie down to chew

their cud, they are still out of range

The tigress waits patiently.

The deer's senses of smell

and hearing are acute,

but their vision is only moderate.

As long as he tigress moves

very, very slowly

or remains motionless

she cannot be been by them,

even when only 30 or 40 feet away.

Her camouflage hides her completely.

The wind shifts and

the tigress is scented.

The hunt is over.

A tigress stakes her claim to

her home range

by spraying prominent trees and bushes

Male tigers mark their territories

in a symbolic fashion.

The size of a tiger's home range

thus marked out varies widely.

On the average a female's territory

is some ten square miles.

Males have much larger territories

which overlap those of the females.

When one tiger smells the scent

of another

it grimaces in what is

called a "flehmen" display.

By following scent markings

and listening for roars,

males and females find each other.

The pair stays together for two or

three days and mates frequently

for some periods as often

as every 10 to 15 minutes.

The hills are almost devoid

of nutritious grazing.

The sambar must come to the lake

to feed on water plant.

The deer and the mugger crocodiles

share the lake peaceably.

The sambar are nervous and uneasy

ready to flee at the slightest sound

or movement.

The constant and hidden menace

of the tiger haunts their every move.

Though he failed to make a kill,

as is so often the case,

this exceptionally bold

and athletic male specializes in

hunting from ambush around the lakes.

Early the next morning this same tiger

finally killed a sambar in the lake.

But to his fury the crocodiles

have snatched it from him.

Intimidated by the crocodiles'

strangely aggressive behavior,

the tiger reluctantly retreats.

But like all of his kind he does not

give up his quarry easily.

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Stanley Breeden

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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