29th July is celebrated every year as Global Tiger Day, to raise awareness about this magnificent but endangered big cat. The feature in this issue on The ‘Big Cat’ Chase…. is a tribute to the conservation efforts all over the world to protect this beautiful, very important apex predator as the survival of the entire ecosystem is dependent on him. At present there are around 3167 tigers in the wild in india. Tiger is the National Animal of india. Tigers in India constitute more than 70% of the global population of tigers in the wild. Project Tiger is a wildlife conservation project launched by the Government of India in April 1973, resulting in a steady and most successful increase in the population of tigers over the years.
I was lucky to capture on lens one such action-packed sequence of a great chase by a tiger.
Nature is amazing. Absolutely amazing, rather, no language is rich enough to describe it. What isn’t on display here, in this experience? Prey, predator, camouflage, river, hunting technique, innocence, life, death, a very tense situation: prey unaware, predator unsure. A game of hide and seek game was being played out in front of us and the most wonderful thing was that one was there to witness it, courtesy one of the best teams of the park comprising Deepak Dhayani, guide along with driver Abdul Kayum.
It was the scorching heat of summer, the month of May when the sun beats down in all its fury and water source is scarce resulting in animals finding their way to the shrunken rivers in pursuit of shade and water. We stepped out in the afternoon for a safari. Our jeep through up mounds of dust as we approached the high banks of the river. Immediately, we spotted a tigress cooling herself in the river.
As we admired her, we sensed that her body had tensed up. A group of deer were coming to the river, munching their way down and led by a male deer. This was ready prey for the predator.
The herd was fully ignorant about the predator who by now was in attack mode and waiting to pounce. The wind was blowing in the opposite direction i.e. from deer side towards the tiger so the herd was totally unaware of the danger lurking ahead. The herd continued its journey slowly towards the river and tiger while seeing the herd and the tigress further lowered herself in the water and took shelter behind the boulders lying on the banks of the river. There she patiently waited for over an hour for the opportune moment to strike. We waited in tension waiting for the suspense to get over and the strike to happen. Will she strike or not? When will she strike? Will the deer escape the attack? Such questions and more played on our minds while we downed down our bottles of water.
Then the moment we were all waiting for occurred! Ready to pounce on her identified prey who had reached within 10-15 feet of her, the tigress made a sudden movement and got up. Water droplets splashed all over as she moved.
She stood up from the water and glanced at the prey………. Their eyes met and the tension in the mind and the muscles is very apparent in both the bodies. After all it is the game of life and death
Tension gripped both of them. Every part of the body was activated and the chase started. These are unique and unforgettable moments which won’t get repeated.
The chase began. Someone was running for his life and someone was running to kill for a living. What a game of mother nature!
The chase continued, the drama rolled on, the hitherto silent jungle came alive with sounds, with this action packed drama. More than anything other sound, it was the warning calls of the herd which were resounding in high decibel: a sound of alert and fear both.
Dust billowed from the ground with the sprinting of the male deer running for his life while water droplets sprinkled from the body of the tigress. These unforgettable moments starting unfolding in front of our eyes.
The drama continued but the long wait by both the parties i.e. us and tiger was over in a matter of a few seconds.
………….what really happened after the chase. The male Deer survived and tigress had to try again. It normally takes around 8-10 attempts to get a prey. Obviously this attempt failed! Therefore there is a clear Management lesson from nature, even if you are a King or the Queen you have to work hard to keep yourself alive.
These moments are happening everyday in Mother Nature. Soaking oneself in nature’s lap changes you, modifies you, inspires you to become a better living being.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Devendra Singh is a Photographer and Environmenalist. He was a civil servant by profession and a nature lover by birth having grown up in lush green lands of Delhi. He now
pursues photography as a full-time passion.