The Prince Is Born.... By Nayan Raheja

Friday 14th August 2009
Photo courtesy : Photo courtesy : myspace.com

The Tiger is the king...but he has no disciples. The Tiger is always solitary...but he is never lonely! For all other animals in the forest, the Tiger is the nemesis...but he is also the saviour! Respected and feared at the same time, a Tiger evokes the emotions of a thousand shades!

A Misty early morning...the first break of dawn peeps from behind some mountain tops...a peacock cries ‘ kaiyon-kaiyooon’ somewhere in the distance...the fragrance of wild exotic flowers effervesces through the air...you clench your cup of tea tightly with both hands, gently rubbing your frozen fingertips on it...precisely then , a deep throated, powerful, but composed ‘Aooungh - Aaaooungghh’ resonates throughout the forest putting a silent restraint to the feet of any animal headed towards the direction of the sound. The source of the sound, a female tigress in heat...the target, the dominant male of the area!
 
This is the advent of the story of the Tiger, the unspoken King of the Jungle.
 
Over the next few days, these tigers will repeatedly mate with each other, sometimes even more than 50 times in a day! Talk about stamina!!...phew!! However, it’s a short climax, lasting only a minute or so each time. At first encounter, there is gentle violence from both sides but don’t you fret, it’s just part of the foreplay! They will snarl, growl and gently slap each other with retracted claws. When the female is ready, she will gently bow down on her hind feet and crawl up in position, in front of the tiger. While some of the things are best left to the imagination, one interesting aspect is how the tiger gently bites at the loose skin at the back of the tigresses neck during the whole process. Exactly after the climax, the tigress usually turns back snarling and shows aggression by slapping and growling at the tiger! Here also, women reign supreme!
 
This courtship will go on for a few days after which the tiger usually goes his own way. Sometimes at the initial stage when the tigress is searching for a mate, she might have two contenders stumble upon her. In this case, there is a fight of dominance between the two males. It is a short affair and generally if the alpha male is bigger in size or aggression, the other one retreats. Nevertheless, it is a formidable affair. The ground beneath the feet shakes when two full grown tigers clash with each other! They tend to get up on the hind feet and slap the opponent with their paws. Just to let you know, a slap like this is powerful enough to crush a human skull in a second and cause instant death. Although this duel is not usually to the death, there have been instances where tigers have killed each other in order to prove supremacy!
 
This kind of sexual maturity is reached at an age of about 2.5 years for females and about 4 years for males. Tigers are highly territorial and solitary creatures. Hence, mating is one of the few times when more than one tiger can be seen together. They may even hunt together during these times. It is also the only instance in a tigers life when it may kill for pleasure to basically show-off to the tigress! Otherwise, a tiger would never ever kill unless it’s hungry!
 
A male tiger’s territory usually overlaps several females’ territory. This of course happens only once he has established his supremacy as the alpha male and has driven out the previous male. While the size of a tigers territory may run into several kilometers (usually between 15-90 sq.kms), it is strictly a consequence of prey availability in the area. The more densely populated the prey is, the lesser the size of the territory. On the other hand, female territories are a fraction of the males’ territory. After courting a female, during which he has complete fidelity towards her, the male would tend to move out and may initiate the same process with a different female who may be in heat.
 
So once the male leaves, the female is pregnant for about 100 days, give or take 10 days on each side depending on litter size. Our lady in question eventually gives birth to a litter of 3 (Tigers usually give birth to about 3-4 cubs) ,one male and two females.
 
And so is born the main protagonist of our story, the prince, who will one day grow up, to be KING !

 

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