Beyond the Circle of Life
Note : For Full HD pictures of complete photo story - http://www.alchemyofnature.net/T6
Beyond The Circle Of Life
- Story of The Heart Of a Wild Tiger
By Sagar Gosavi.
Filming and Photographing Tigers in the wild is a passion in itself. I have seen filmmakers and photographers dedicating their whole life in doing this. All this because of the obvious reasons as Tiger is one of the most magnificent creature to walk the face of the earth. Intention is to observe and study its behavior and share it with others which in turn helps in awareness and conservation of Tiger Habitats.
I am being more into Bird Photography, I don't visit tiger reserves that often.
Still I happened to visit a few, every year. 2004 was the year when I visited Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve for the 1st time and astonished by its unique habitat and beauty of the forest.
After 10 years, on one day in June 2014 during the Canon NW Photo Tour, I got to witness something which I am unable stop thinking about and difficult to be explained.
Despite all the study and research, sometimes, Nature leaves you dumb struck.
It was one morning in June, when we visited Zone 4 of Ranthambhore and found the pugmarks of a Male Tiger walking towards Bakola region. After the confirmation from the forest guards and some territory logic, that it could be T6.
T6 is a full grown Male tiger aging 8 to 10 years. His main territory is Aadi Dagar-Berda-Semli-Bakola areas of park. T6 is locally known as Romeo and T41 Tigress was his mate until this year.
T41 is now seen mating with T25, Another Male tiger in the adjacent area which falls on zone 4 and 5. Till that time I had not photographed T6 ever in my 10 years of visit to Ranthambhore.
Same day in the evening, we got the drive in Zone 5. There was a movement of few other Tigers in that zone but I decided to follow this male and I headed for Bakola straight a way. On the way I checked most of the water holes but there was no movement. As we were about to hit Bakola, all the stars must have come in the constellation. T6 aka Romeo
I saw a huge and handsome male tiger walking in the nallah. It was T6. It was out on a stroll marking his territory on almost every big tree every 10 meters.
He walked almost for an hour. By maintaining the proper distance it followed us and I was happy to be able to photograph him to the best.
It was 46 - 48 degrees, and
King was visiting all the waterholes from the path.
As he was entering the water, the dead water was shivering with ripples ..
Every other species was making the path for the Tiger..
As he entered the tall grass and thick wooded patch, we decided to move ahead and
anticipated for him to come but he did not. We moved on.
Every one from my vehicle was so happy as getting so many opportunities to shoot
a Tiger. I was certainly.. as I was photographing T6 for the 1st time.
We reached the forest chowki to get our entry slip signed as a formality. Here one can get down from the vehicle for water and toilets. I got down from the vehicle and settled on the ground under the tree and was checking my pictures on Camera LCD.
After 2 mins, we decided to move on to other area so boarded the vehicle again.
I was kind of relaxed.
As soon as the engine started we saw one vehicle standing at one bend of the road at some distance.
And my guide suddenly said ... "Sir Tiger, Phirse chal raha hai ..Yahin aa raha hai Apni taraf" ..
With light speed i was up the next moment with my gear ready.5.19pm
Again to our luck, it was walking straight towards us.
I placed my vehicle at the other end of the curvy slope and was shooting him approaching us directly.. Suddenly, on the slope he stopped behind the grass.
His behavior changed ..
Muscles were tightened,
Ears positioned and Eyes locked directly on to me, as i was looking through my viewfinder.
As mine was the only vehicle right in front of him and his sight was locked exactly in our direction.
So it was difficult to understand why us ?
We were at a good distance..
Aah those piercing eyes ...!! Everyone from my vehicle including guide n driver thought that he got angry and planning to charge on us. Everyone got scared and tensed initially.
But when I moved my eye away from the viewfinder and looked back carefully, he was looking right above us at the slope of one small rocky hill right behind us.
And there it was ...
His eyes were freezed onto two Spotted Deers and a female Nilgai (Blue Bull Antelope) on the lower slopes of that small hill.
I suddenly anticipated that there might be the chance of a kill here. We quickly moved ahead and cleared the path for him and now waiting for him to move forward.
10 secs, 20 secs, 30 sec,
and he started crouching, moving forward slowly... Slowly and carefully by lowering his body..
Then he started running slowly taking the hide in the grass.The Golden grass was the perfect camouflage for him .. Nothing could have defined the word
He crossed the path in front of me and he stopped behind a tree on the base of the hill like a statue. Deers and Nilgai were still clueless. And now it was clear that he was not interested in Deers,
He was now locked on to a Nilgai.
I started breathing very fast, heart was in my mouth. Goose bumps all over.
Everything was so intense in the atmosphere, and for all those moments I completely forgot everything... absolutely everything ... I started sweating so much in that 1 min..
My finger on the shutter and eye to the viewfinder ...
The only thing my brain was doing is to anticipate and anticipate and anticipate ....Every slight movement of the tiger was getting noticed ..now... now... now ...
And he launched himself from behind the tree like a bullet.......
The Huge Leap ....
I pressed my shutter like "May Day" !! 10 fps .... Tarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh !!!! Loud alarm calls from both the deers as they ran for their life.
Blue bull started running to
its best on the slopes in the bushes. And a Tiger, taking big leaps right behind it.
I could see the chase behind the bushes. Tiger was taking leaps which was making him look double his length.Using his tail to take some sharp turns. Huge Male tiger running at that speed was beyond my imagination.
Suddenly Nilgai came down the slope from the other side,
And there comes,
The Death From Above,
A huge Male tiger jumped from the slopes of that hill, right on the Nilgai catching her throat in his Jaws!!
his jump was so accurate that as soon as he landed, her throat was in his Jaws.
My legs started shivering when Male tiger pounced on nilgai from above the slopes.
Finger was still on the shutter and eye to viewfinder... Varying the focal length to get some detailed shots and some wide shots.
Now there was only
"A Cry for Life and a Call of a Death".
Nilgai was crying and crying loudly and Tiger was getting grip of its throat firmly.
His four three inch dagger-like canines were buried deeply into her throat.
He was pulling her down with all his strength.
The tiger waited, almost calmly, jaws firmly locked in place, steadily choking her throat.
Kadddddddddddd !! a loud noise as Tiger broke the neck of the nilgai.All cats kill by suffocation when hunting large prey. They clamp their jaws around the prey's throat, pressing its windpipe closed so that it cannot draw breath and suffocates.There was one lady tourist on some vehicle standing at the back, literally cried loudly..
Suddenly the whole adrenaline in the surroundings went into a silence.....Tiger was still holding the neck in his jaws and now the chill n clam on his face was such that it will break the bravest of the hearts. For some good 5 minutes, he kept his jaws clamped.
At last, as soon as he opened his jaws, The neck of the bull was on the ground.
He started licking the blood and many must have fainted from the tourist vehicle behind us.
I could clearly see the holes punched by his canines on the neck of the dead nilgai.
Tiger was so exhausted that he got up and sat besides the kill and started breathing very heavily.
Generally, after a kill, Tiger waits for good one hour or so before he starts eating the kill.
He Got up after 5 to 10 minutes and started dragging the kill in the Shadow behind the huge tree. He then started eating it from behind. He must have been very hungry.
The whole sequence was difficult to sink in.
It happened even before we could realize it.
There were so many emotions and feelings that my mind went blank and it was hard to believe whatever happened right in front of me.
Everyone from my vehiclemust have gone through the same feeling. It is very rare to see a full grown Male Tiger making a kill, and we, bunch of few heads, actually could photographed the full sequence.
It was 5.35pm when we decided to leave so that we could reach the gate in time.
Much discussions happened with some local experts and filmmakers and found that
The sequence was "Something" to be witnessed and photographed successfully.
We were so exhausted, both mentally and physically. I could sleep only for 3 hours that night, as all the time was thinking about the whole thing which happened.
I had seen many tiger hunts in the past but those were not the successful hunts. All those were just the attempts. Generally Tiger can make 1 successful hunts in 6 to 7 attempts. But its true that it all depends upon the hunting skills of a Tiger. So this was my 1st successful Tiger hunt sequence witnessed and photographed too. Now I could make out how skillful T6 as a tiger is !!
In this whole sequence, It was a riot of emotions. Cry and Emotions of a Nilgai, struggling for her life and Emotions of a Tiger, struggling for food n survival.
But whatever it was, It was a Circle of a Life, Survival and Death.
Some were feeling sorry for the Nilgai.
But Tiger kills only when they are hungry ... for food. How i wish Humans could follow the same.
And then we say that Tigers are ruthless, fearsome cold blooded killers with no mercy.
The definition of "Crime" can be best learnt from we Humans.
Next Day Morning
When it seemed that this was the end of the story which was certainly some Natural History Moment, Nature said - Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.
I was hoping to get Zone 3 to see Krishna (T19) and her small cubs, but never knew what was on my cards. I again got Zone 5. It was obvious that the Male tiger T6 will be around the same place as yesterday and sitting with the kill. I again went straight to the "Scene of Crime" .
Scene was an empty space .. We Searched for him.
T6 was found sitting behind the big rocks with the kill lying wide open in front of him.
20 percent of the kill was eaten already. He was guarding the kill and even getting concerned about Jungle Crows every now and then.
He got up and tried eating few pieces but again settled under a small bush. His unusual tail movements suggested that he was thinking about something. After some 15 mins, he got up and came straight to the face of the Nilgai and he started looking into her eyes. Dead but still open.. He watched directly and closely in her eyes for some 2 minutes and left the place.
This behavior of him was totally confusing and i was continuously thinking - What is he doing ?
Then He walked up to the place where he killed and dragged her the previous day, and picked something from the green leaves lying on the ground. Initially we thought it was some remain of the kill but ...
He had kept something hidden beneath the leaves (as the leaves were fresh green, he must have plucked them from the tree intentionally and carefully dropped them on the ground to hide something)
It was the Fetus of Antelope, Her Unborn Baby i.e. female antelope he killed must have been pregnant.
He held it very carefully like tigers pick their cubs in the mouth and started walking
towards the other end of the hill.
He walked in the thick forest and disappeared with the Fetus.
Many said that he would eat the fetus separately, but it was hard to accept due to his behavior to treat the fetus while hiding it beneath the green leaves or the way he picked it up in his mouth.
If this would have been a Tigress, we could have seen this whole thing as a Mother Instinct ..
But a full grown Male Tiger ??
We followed him in the evening even on next day morning, but got the confirmation from the nearby forest guards on the chowki that he never returned to the kill after that.
The incident left me disturbed. Last night when we accepted the whole incident as a Circle of Life ... next day morning i felt it to be Beyond the Circle of Life.
There were riots of different emotions going on my mind already and never thought that this would end in such a Mystery.
Why did he look in the eyes of the dead Nilgai before leaving ?
Why did he pick up the fetus the way tigers hold their cubs..?
Why did he remove the fetus carefully while eating the kill and hide it behind the leaves
on the ground. ?
Why did he abandon the kill ?
The whole incident left so many questions in my mind and all rest of the experts and researchers. Now, all we could or can do is to put our thoughts about it.
And it has to end with one last question -
Does this whole event has anything to do with the emotional side of one of the most fearsome and lethal predators ??
Jim Corbett always believed that, Tiger is not just an animal or a predator.
But it is a Spirit... Holy Spirit.
There are so many incidents which are taken place which will give an account for the fact that, this apex predator has emotional side too. Wild Tigers and their emotions would certainly be a matter to be researched and can reveal many of the unknown facts about them.
For me it was one opportunity that might not come in a .... ummmm ... a Life Time may be .. !!
It needed certainly a special treatment at least from my part and will remain one of my best achievements in my work as a Natural History Photographer.
My 1st Tiger hunt witnessed in the wild has not only left me shaken but also left me thinking about "The Heart Of a Wild Tiger".
Like the Pi Patel from the movie "Life Of Pi" says -
Animals Have Souls ... I have seen it in their Eyes !!
Thanks for all your support and encouragement it helped me grow as a photographer, a nature lover and a good human being. Thanks for the Visit and the read.
Leave your valuable comments and suggestions in the comments section or guestbook.
For Full HD pictures of complete photo story -http://www.alchemyofnature.net/T6
- Sagar Gosavi
Natural History Photographer.
Photography Mentor - Canon India Pvt. Ltd.
Mentor & Wildlife Field Expert - Nature Wanderers.
All text and Images are Copyright by Sagar Gosavi. © All Rights Reserved.
Keywords: Blue Bull Antelope, Fetus, Indian Wildlife, Male Tiger, Nilgai, RTR, Ranthambhore, Romeo, Sagar Gosavi, T6, Tiger, Tiger Kill
Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
What an event to unfold in front of eyes.... I am moved with your narration... you are lucky to witness the holy spirit. Thanks for sharing... i could not leave until I read the whole thing..great work on photography.
Beautiful story narration a dreamy I felt the tiger apologies to have killing the neelghai I guess it said sorry.. I sure it did.. Really touching experience but this is nature.. So respect and love
awesome sighting, great photography and even better narration. thanks for sharing.
No comments posted.