The Warrior of Sitabani Forest
Mothers are a peculiar breed, always thinking for her children rather than self, even if it is to the detriment of self. This goes true, whether it is a human or a tigress. The author recounts his various encounters with a specific tigress through the years, and her progress into motherhood.
Sitabani reserve forest comes under Ramnagar Forest Division in Uttarakhand and has a reputation for the Highest Number of tigers outside a protected area in the country. Being on the outskirts of Corbett National Park, its also called Corbett landscape. This area is famed for its amazing biodiversity and is very rich in fauna and flora. Being a reserve forest it has only one route which connects uphill villages to Ramnagar City via narrow motorable road. Its also famous for elephant corridors and as well as for its massive tigers. Although, being a single road, sightings of animals are not easy except for elephants.
As a local photographer I have been exploring this beautiful forest since 2012, but it took me a long time to capture my first tiger here. It was in the year 2018 when I had my first encounter with this massive beauty while crossing the road.
Since then, I have been following her. Just two months after the initial sighting, she was found badly injured by a local person while crossing the road. Luckily he managed to capture a few pictures of her injury and looking at the picture it was easy to assume that she had cubs and must have been in a huge fight with another tiger.
She was unspotted for a long time after this incident, even in a rescuing campaign attempted by the forest department but they soon withdrew due to the rainy season. Her injury was just above the ear and her nose and it was so severe that it damaged her entire nasal opening. Nobody knew whether she was alive or had succumbed to her injuries.
A few months later, we got some good news that she was spotted in a camera trap that was placed by the forest department for her and it meant that she was surviving even after receiving severe wounds. But she was never spotted with her cubs and it was deduced that she couldn’t save them.
Time passed and in Nov I came to know that one female was sighted on a roadside nullah with 3 cubs. The sighting area was considered to be her territory.It was great news and I was curious to confirm to myself if the sighted tigress was my old friend, the warrior mother. I started roaming around the area, frequently in search of that tigress but I wasn’t that lucky to even have a glimpse.
Thereafter she has been sighted by a tourist with her Cubs while crossing the road and he managed to Freeze those moments in Video. And after viewing the video it was confirmed that it was the same tigress as the one I was searching for earlier. She disappeared once again after this sighting.
After almost one year later, on April 19, that I got to see her on the roadside while resting under the buses and it was a sigh of relief. I was so happy to see her, and it seemed that she almost recovered from the injuries although the clogged nose was visible.
On June 20 she went on a cattle hunt on the Kosi riverbed and I got an opportunity to photograph her while dragging the cattle into the jungle.
I knew she is with the cubs and she will come out with the cubs for drinking. So I chose a place from where I could have scanned the riverbed. Finally, she appeared – the cubs joined her one by one and I was so happy to see her with her offsprings although the nose injury was still clearly visible and it was like an unhealed wound…
I got her again in the month of Aug’20 while crossing the road with Cubs but couldn’t captured except last one there after Towards end of Same month she hunted down a cattle just opposite the Ramnagar city on kosi river just in front of me and I managed to Freeze the entire series of cattle hunting..
Later while processing photographs I got shocked zooming in a photo and it was visible there that she had lost her left eye! This might have been while attempting a hunt of Sambar deer and it was terrible news and a question mark on her survival as well as that of her cubs.
But she is a true warrior and she proved me wrong. Even after being badly injured, she did not stop hunting for her cubs and now they have fully grown into sub-adults and are ready to explore their new territories.
Recently I saw her with her male cub while crossing the road. She still shows up from time to time, leaving me ever fascinated.
In the end, she is a veteran warrior, just her appearance is enough to tell the story. She is a true warrior,a showstopper, a legendary tigress. A brave mother and last but not the least she is the Pride of Sitabani Forest. She is still on the hunt…..
Image Credits: Atul Bisht