Saturday, February 3, 2018

Intruding Male Tigers Killing Cubs

With the sad demise of Budbudi female her cubs would have perished as well or perhaps eaten by the intruding male tiger. An impressive number of cubs are born every year, but few survive to repopulate the reserves in India.

The males that sire the cubs do not kill them rather protect them from attacks and often meet and share meals with the family as a matter of assurance. It is the duty of not only the female but the male as well to see the cubs through the two plus years of vulnerability.   

Territorial hold of dominant males is porous and is often intruded by transgressing rivals. This is bound to be as male tigers are peripatetic, busy patrolling their territory leaving females and cubs vulnerable to an attack by an intruding male. It is difficult to manage large territories that the dominant cats hold. They may have mated with other females in their area in order to ensure healthy population of their species. Darwin's survival of the fittest is very much evident in tiger landscapes where battle for space and food is intense.    

The killing of young ones is a natural phenomenon and insures transfer of better genes. Well this can not be often as many times the intruding male is sent packing or is unable to kill all the cubs. Death of all the cubs could mean female coming back into oestrus. This is what the intruding males seek. By killing all the cubs they are able to transfer their genes. 

The big cats are possessive mothers and go out of the way to protect young ones. Not only protection but they also impart skills for survival in the wilderness. In order to remain safe they keep on shifting their territories but the shifting process may make them more vulnerable to attacks by rival males.  

Whence the tigress is able to resist takeover it could ensue into an internecine battle often resulting in the death of the female. The male is hurt too but being stronger and larger is able to fend off death. This is what happened in case of Budbudi tigress in Kanha National Park. The male eventually consumed the female which again is not surprising.     

Tigresses do mate with more than one male to ensure fertilisation as well as avoid conflict with a rival. This often happens whence the males are siblings and hence allowed to stay in vicinity. The big cats show greater tolerance towards their siblings then towards strangers.     

Within a spate of couple of months about ten cubs have been killed at Kanha National Park. This is a regular occurrence and those that have lost young cubs may soon give birth to another litter. These events certainly do not call for human intervention since it is nature doing its bit.  

The loss of young ones is certainly sad since we are losing tigers fast due to other factors chiefly lack of habitat, electrocution and poaching. But many times hundred percent survival rate is experienced in well managed parks, and this is what maintains a population balance in the ecosystem.

The cubs are vulnerable for two years but take more time than that to learn and gather experience. This is essential to fend of dominant males hence they have to find uncharted territory. In case of space restriction they have to face humans which are more dangerous than rival males.      

Tigers are prolific breeders and swiftly replenish the stock if adequate protection and space is provided.  Winters are preferred for mating albeit it goes on throughout they year as and when opportunity arises. This is the period whence conflicts are accentuated including territorial fights among the males. 

Generally the core undisturbed area is sought after by dominant males. The high prey base, water and adequate shelter makes the core inviolate area more preferable than the buffer which is littered settlements and farms.