ATR - Day 37: The strange mating game of the tigers at Bandhavgarh
Today, we encountered two complex mating games among the tigers that seems more befitting to calculative humans than instinctual animals.
November 6, 2023
Sunday, 10:30 PM
The morning safari today at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve turned out to be quite eventful with a sprinkling of bizarre with four tigers spotted, two males and two females, at different locations, engaged in a kind of complex mating game that seemed to involve the mind game belonging more in the human world than among the wild animals, who we perceive, by and large, as more instinctual than calculative, even when their intelligence is beyond dispute.
We came across a large male tiger courting a female tiger in a bid to mate with her, and the female appeared clearly way more than just unwilling. She was constantly snarling and aggressively resisting the attempts made by the male tiger. Such was her anger at the persistence of the male tiger, who was blocking her way, preventing her from moving away from him, that she chewed violently on dry wood sticks lying around, growling, because that’s the best she could do, knowing fully well that she could not physically take on a male tiger of much superior strength. And she just did not want to mate.
There were different theories about why she did not want to mate, of which the most widely accepted one was that she was pregnant and so she did not want to mate. While it can be the case, but it doesn’t seem likely because the best strategy to ensure that the male doesn’t kill her future cubs is mating with him so that he has a good reason to believe that those cubs could be his; so if he kills them, he might be killing his own progeny. On the other hand, if he has not mated with the female tiger, he has every reason to believe that her cubs are not his, which means she would then have to protect her cubs from the male during their infancy and through their sub-adulthood. But again, that’s another theory, and even if it might sound more plausible to my mind, it has much the same chances of being wrong as the other one.
In the case of the other pair we saw, the story was the exact opposite. This was a huge male tiger even though he is said to be only three years old, and was being pursued by an older female tiger, aged over six years. Generally, it is the male that courts a female and not the other way round, but in this case, not only were the role reversed, but also the male did not seem interested. And yet the female kept pursuing him by following him around and being constantly around him. Much like the other case, people had theories about why such an unusual thing was taking place.
The most credible of all theories in this regard was that either the female was already pregnant or had recently delivered her cubs and was actively hiding them from male tigers to prevent them from being killed by a grown male tiger. And the best way to prevent her cubs from being killed by a male tiger is to convince the male that the cubs are his. So if this male mated with her, he would rather protect her cubs under the belief of his being the father even if he actually isn’t. And that, people said, was the reason why she was pursuing this male. Although it did make sense, but still sounded crooked and calculative in the Machiavellian range.
In the evening safari, we again came across the same snarling female that was being relentlessly courted by that persistent male in the afternoon to her utter dislike. I got some excellent shots and videos of both of those male-female encounters, and you’ll get to see them in the forthcoming pictures, reels, shorts and other videos in addition to the Vlog for today to be uploaded in a couple of days.