“What is the reign period of a Male Tiger ? ” – a question that suddenly struck us while having our usual discussion on Tigers.
All search on Tiger studies failed to show any specific insights -may be it is too big a study to conduct across forests or terrains. So?
We started looking at individuals -current and past generation of great males who have made the Indian forests famous through their acts of valour, producing litters and not to forget the numerous moments through photos or videos they allowed tourists or tiger lovers to capture over the course of their reign.
Life of a Male Tiger
Males are the first in the litter to move away from their mother and sisters (from the same litter). It has been observed that a male sub-adult moves to far off places away from his mother and sisters’ territory trying to build his kingdom. He needs to establish a region by defeating another resident male (unless he finds unoccupied territory) and conquer his queens and then sire litters through them. But the most difficult part is to keep his kingdom intact. Those who failed had faded away with time but the very few who have succeeded have their names immortalised on the pages of Tiger history.
Fortunately as we pen down this blog, we do have quite a few names that surface – Charger from Bandhavgarh, Gabbar from Tadoba, Raiyakassa from Pench and well there is someone from Sunderbans -land where tigers are still shrouded in mystery!
Game of Thrones-Charger, Raiyakassa , Wagdoh , Gabbar and Bajrang
Charger (Reign 1991 to 1999), Bandhavgarh : Well just like the Emperor Akbar is synonymous with Mughal dynasty, tale of tiger dynasty is incomplete without the mention of Charger from Bandhavgarh. He appeared in Bandhavgarh sometime during 1990-91 (no one knows how and from where) and then went on to rule for nearly a decade before being ousted by his own grandson B2. This is so similar to what we read about in the history pages about our rulers , beginning of their reigns and the end. Charger (name given for his mock charging towards anything that came in his way) also formed a an inseparable bond with tigress Sita and together they gave Bandhavgarh the next generation of tigers . Charger ruled undeafeated over Chakradhara (in Tala zone)and adjoining territories till late 1990s.He is probably the only wild tiger on whom we have a book and whose name is now used to designate a particular spot in Bandhavgarh National park-the Charger point after his death in 2000. (just like we remember great Men/Women by renaming places or roads after them)
Charger Point-Picture adopted from Internet
Raiyakassa (Reign 2014 – till date), Pench: We never saw Charger but we have not missed Raiyakassa -current Emperor of Pench. He still rules a large part of tourism area in Pench NP (MP) and holds on to his territory inspite of having continuing fights with incoming males. Still in his prime , he is the emperor of his kingdom for the last 5 years and in these 5 years he has helped his queen Collarwali (aka Mataram in Pench) to become mother for the 8th time (a world record perhaps!) . Out of 8 litters, Raiyakassa has been the father for her last 5 litters-isn’t it amazing. Like Charger and Sita, Raiyakassa and Collarwali have helped Pench by passing on their legacy and the Emperor is not finished yet.
Raiyakassa- Picture taken by Suddhasatwa Das
Big Males from Tadoba -Wagdoh, Bajrang , Gabbar and Matkasur (2011 onwards) : While Bandhavgarh and Pench have seen emperors ruling for long, Tadoba has been different with reigns changing very often -from Yadda Anna to big Wagdoh male , from aggressive Gabbar to mighty Matkasur . It is believed that Yeda Anna who once ruled over Moharli range was ousted by Wagdoh (biggest Bengal tiger of his time till Jai arrived ) in 2011 who also killed his cubs with Madhuri . Wagdoh ruled with Madhuri to give Tadoba the famous Telia gang of Sonam, Geeta, Mona and Lara (they killed and ate together). He badly injured himself during a kill and got himself named as “scarface”. After Madhuri left Moharli range, Wagdoh followed his beloved queen leaving behind his throne for love (?)
In 2015, another big male Bajrang appeared to take over the vacant territory. With currently 8 tigresses in his territory (including the beautiful Sonam) , his legacy is driving Tadoba to itz zenith as far as tiger numbers are concerned. It won’t be a surprise if Bajrang is owning a record area well over 150 sqkm given that there are 8 tigreesses with him (Do check one of our earlier posts if you want to understand how big Bajrang is !!) Another drama took place in 2016 involving the enchantress of Tadoba -Maya . Gabbar and Matkasur fought over her and Matkasur prevailed to oust old Gabbar thus ending his reign. The second litter of cubs that Maya probably had with Gabbar survived (that is a separate story) and young and powerful Matkasur became the new ruler. Almost three years have passed by and with Maya’s 3rd litter on the verge of adulthood , the couple are still together. But off late Matka’s reign too has been challenged by “Chota” Matka (his son from Choti Tara probably) and Maya has fought off the intruder to save her cubs. But going by the trend Tadoba is again poised for a change in ruler it seems!
Matkasur- Picture taken by Tirthankar Das
The Mysterious Sunderban ruler (2009 till date) : Tiger reigns of 4-8 years have been witnessed in the wild across India with Male tigers who probably start ruling from an young of age 5-6 manage to carry on till 11-12 years (unless it is abruptly ended midway by the challenger as has happened in many cases). At Sunderbans however, experts and tiger tourists have recently discovered a male tiger who was there in 2009 in the same area! Initial match of stripes of 2009 and 2019 photos indicate that it is the same male tiger- so assuming he was 3-4 years old during 2009 we have a 14 year old male ruling an area which is well over 100 sq km and that too for a decade!!. Unlike many forests, Sunderban is shrouded in mystery due to its habitat and terrain . Here many tigers once photographed are never seen again and with most of the forests out of bounds for tourists and researchers knowing about territorial fights is near to impossible unlike that in Central India or Ranthambore. The “dominant” male as he is often called (some locals call him Nantu) has been seen many times since 2015 and even today he can be seen walking across the banks or swimming across channels. In his area, tigresses have been spotted with cubs, sub adult males have been seen too but Nantu is going strong. Does he not have a competitor? Has he defeated them all over the years? No one knows the answer and the implications of a single tiger ruling for so long too is not clear though it is clear that he is healthy killing human and other prey at will and his majestic gait is a photographer’s delight! Long live the King !
Sunderban Male- Picture Taken by Niladri Kundu
-Niladri Kundu and Suddhasattwa Das