When T-5, a tigress in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, died of intestinal blockage in 2011, forest officials and wildlife activists were apprehensive of the chances of survival of her two female cubs, aged around three months.
There was a possibility of the cubs, initially dubbed as Bina-1 and Bina-2, being hunted by other animals but a male tiger, T-25, took them under its protection. Over the next couple of years, the forest officials at Ranthambore were witness to a rare scene — a male tiger rearing two female cubs, teaching them how to hunt and protecting them from other animals.
The 15-year-old T-25, who was also known as Zalim and Dollar, was found dead on Monday morning in Sanwata area of the reserve, said Manoj Parashar, field director of Ranthambore Tiger Project.
“The post-mortem report has revealed that T-25’s head has been injured by another tiger, which suggests a territorial fight. The tiger couldn’t probably stand up to the attack,” Rajasthan chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar said.
Wildlife activists said T-25 was the reason why the two cubs could survive without their mother.
“We assumed that T-25 was the father of the two cubs. Earlier it was the belief that the father acts only as the protector while the mother does everything else. But here we saw that when the cubs were growing, T-25 would take the two of them on a territorial walk like a mother does, show them the territory, markings and give them lessons in identifying smells. It was T-25 which taught them to be adult tigers,” said Balendu Singh, former honorary wildlife warden of Sawai Madhopur.
Singh, who documented the relationship between T-25 and the two cubs for over two years, said, “We once saw a female tiger charging at one of the cubs and Zalim had sprung up to defend it. It had challenged the female tiger and marked its territory, protecting the cub,” he said.
The two cubs were later shifted to the Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) where they continue to be.
T-25 was among the most visible animals in Ranthambore, according to wildlife activists.
“Earlier, his territory used to be Kachida. T-25 was among those tigers which were most visible to tourists visiting Ranthambore. When it took the two cubs under its wing, we couldn’t find any such precedent,” said Dharmendra Khandal, director of TigerWatch.
RajasthanCM Ashok Gehlot tweeted, “Sad news from the wild life that #Ranthambore’s famous Tiger-T25 is no more. It was a magnanimous tiger who took care of two orphan cubs. T25 will be missed. #Rajasthan.”
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