Everytime I enter any buffer zone, core area of forest or just simply go near nature, I always wondered what is that one thing which keeps me is coming back to Mother Nature, especially to Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. Perhaps on 8th April 2017, nature had decided to answer my quest after long 25 years of my engagement with nature and I didn’t even have a slightest of idea, what was coming for me
Talking about Tadoba, of around 250 different tigers I saw till date at various places in India, I have closely followed one tigress, MAYA. Obviously, she has my attention because she’s the one who loves to break those unwritten rules of tiger behavior. She would never do what you expect her to do. She is different, YES.
The tigress of Tadoba, Maya, now the queen has been a royal cub of Tadoba since birth. I’ve seen her ever since she was a naughty cub, just like that bundle of joy of a girl child we often see in a family, where boys rule the day and night. That full of life girl child always get extra attention from parents. And she single handedly binds all members of family with her actions. Yes, MAYA too was just like that when she was a kid. Naughty and always had special attention from her Mother. When MAYA grew up circa 2012, I was lucky to witness her first kill, a wild boar. What finesse her skills were in the first kill itself. I was so happy to witness that just as if my daughter had passed some important exams with flying colors!! A father would tell whole world how his daughter has achieved success and how she took pains to reach this point. Somewhat, my feelings were the same. I saw this young girl cub, struggling with everything coming her way and now she was all grown up, ready to be on her own. Independent.
Oh, I loved.. loved to see my MAYA so much independent. This was also the time when I realized this girl had now become an independent tigress, ready to rule Tadoba. No one dare her territory. Her dominance is direct result of sheer aggression she shows when being confronted. Swift in action and those fiery eyes !!! Anybody looking through her eyes can see his death coming for sure. So, with these qualities, MAYA was quintessential Queen of Tadoba by 2013 and this girl had been one of the most fierce mother when it comes to protecting her cub. Another male tiger MATKASUR, a kinda Hulk, was trying to woo her for quite some time but till her cub was independent, MAYA never let MATKASUR come even near her.
So, this day i.e. 8th April 2017, in a routine safari, I was explaining my guests various insights of Tadoba. We were wondering whether we could see a live kill by any tiger. Alas! Its so difficult to witness such priceless moment. I always wondered if tigers were obliging only to National Geographic or Discovery people visiting them. But, MAYA had already decided to favor me.
Today too, there was something in the air. My gut feeling was saying something. I didn’t want to leave MAYA alone that day. So we decided to stay back and wait. Our wait was rewarded with comfortable sighting of MATKASUR and MAYA both. Later, MAYA was taking rest in bushes. Till this time all other jeeps carrying tourists had decided to wind up their safari and go back to respective hotels. But, as I said, I was sensing something. In the meantime, forest guards informed that MATKASUR and MAYA were not seen hunting ever since 29th March. Can it be today ? My mind was asking me questions and also answering, yes, MAYA will oblige.
So, first came out of the bushes was MATKASUR. Royal King had decided to fetch some food and so he took his position and here was first attempt to catch hold of wild boar. Oh boy!! He nearly made it but alas, the boar slipped off and the King did realize that it was a bad day for him. Disappointed, MATKASUR left the scene hurriedly. Perhaps, it was just the same feeling, as if he was caught at long on desperately trying to hit a ball for a six.
Oh MAYA, this girl was still taking rest in bushes and suddenly the queen thought something. Licking their front paws before going for a kill has been common habit of all tigers. But MAYA does it with grace. Every action of MAYA makes one know her royal lineage. And the Queen now decided to do some yawning and stretching. Some exercises before the sprint, as they say. Sipped some water from the lake, MAYA started looking around. As she started looking around, I too started guessing whats next. Sun was indeed working overtime to keep the temperature quite hot. And in this scorching heat, the deers group was drinking water. The Queen was selecting her prey calmly. Her eyes found someone. But as they say, if you get things easily, you don’t value them. MAYA knew it very well. While setting a target prey, this one male deer, the cheeky one and also lonely one saw MAYA with those looks to kill on his group. He was sharp enough to sense the problem and he made the first move, made a first Alarm Call for his group. Once this alarm call was made, the calmness, soft environment around Tadoba Lake was all busy with activities. Group desperately started running and so was the cheeky male deer who alarmed everyone. Normally, tigers don’t give much attention to alarm calls made by deers etc. But today’s cheeky deer had committed contempt in Queen’s realm!!
This cheeky deer was definitely far as compared to other deers in the group when they started running away from MAYA. While I was just trying to get a sense what MAYA was planning, she surprised us all by straight away charging towards this cheeky deer who had rung the alarm bells for his group. Whoa!! Whatay decision!! Every tiger loves to prey in least possible efforts and here my MAYA was. She was charging a far away deer than the ones she could have easily preyed.
As much I was surprised, the cheeky deer was doubly surprised. He was maneuvering quite well and it was truly test of leg muscles for both of them. But, MAYA was indeed thinking way ahead of this deer. She knew what mistake this cheeky deer should make and she can seal his fate. Well!! He didn’t disappoint her too much and during his maneuvering he started running towards lake, inside lake. What else did the queen wanted !! Whoa!!! What was that… the queen, even before I flipped my eyelid had this deers throat chocked. Desperate to get away, this cheeky deer was trying hard, real hard. And the queen had some sense of satisfaction while he was struggling to get out of her fatal grip. Slowly the movements faded and the job was complete. Mission Accomplished.
Who would have thought this will happen. The entire showtime was well over within 9-10 minutes. Did we just see MAYA hunting a deer who defied her rules ? Oh Yes, and she had her eyes telling everyone else not to mess up her state of affairs, else be ready for the consequences!
Did this small girl cub just to a beautiful revenge on her kill ? Looking at her behavior I do think so. She is way ahead of her contemporaries. She’s got the brains. She manipulate her prey. And yes, her success rate is way higher than other dominant males in Tadoba!! This girl is outshining all the tiger boys of Tadoba!! What else do I ask for when, after the kill, she gave a blank look towards us and moved in bushes along with her prey!! As if she was hinting me, yes you were right, today I was going for a showtime and glad you witnessed !!
I am seeing MAYA’s evolution day by day. I know she has a very strong character built up now. She didn’t require any boarding school to learn this. She didn’t require home-works to do. She followed Nature. She learnt everything from her surrounding without spoiling nature. And nature had given her perfect training. Which again brings me to my quest of what keeps me coming back to Mother Nature and MAYA had helped me understand. She wanted me to know, that I, we all, have to respect Mother Nature. We have to protect our environment, If we defy this, Mother Nature has a lot of ways to set the records straight against us, just like what MAYA did to the cheeky deer.
Filled with thoughts, as we were heading back towards our hotel, i along with my guests started singing this song ” Ek haseen nigha ka dil pe saya hai, Jaadu hai.. Junoon hai, ye kaisi MAYA hai,.. Yeh Maya Hai” !! So true it is as I felt real blessed to have known this tigress… and Maya had made my resolve to do more and more towards nature conservation.
Image: Maya : The Graceful Predator.