The undisputed king of the jungle (100+ lbs bigger than a lion) and star attraction at India's national parks is the majestic Bengal Tiger. While India has claimed that recent conservation efforts have boosted the wild tiger population, poaching and habitat loss are still very big issues, and the tiger remains critically endangered, with optimistic estimates of the worldwide population around 2,500. Let's hope that humans are able to protect this awesome creature from extinction, and future generations can have the incredible experience that I was lucky enough to have in observing tigers in their natural environment at Madhya Pradesh.
It all began with this majestic wild beast that is often acrobatic and playful - here, an adult male jumps up on a safari jeep and entertains park visitors. — in Madhya Pradesh.
Our first tiger sighting though was an adult male in Kanha National Park - we spotted him lounging in the forest, but he soon got up and started making his way through the forest - here, in a very cat-like move, he stops and smells the bushes.
In a stroke of luck, he then headed into a field, straight towards us - even looking at a photo, having a tiger stare straight at you is quite intimidating! (also, thought it was cool that the markings on the top of his head seem to spell "cat"
We learned that the tiger's typical prey animals do not see color, meaning tigers are much more camouflage to the prey animals than they are to us. One of my favorite pics....A beautiful and impressive animal!
At the entrance to Bandhavargh National Park, we saw an adult male tiger make his way into the park and out of sight....about 10 min later, a second male emerged (pictured), following the first tiger's exact path, and with his fur puffed up at attention....it seemed that something was about to go down!
Walking side by side....the incumbent did his best to completely ignore the challenger, while the challenger juked and invaded his personal space. Again, note how the challenger is puffed up, while the reigning champ is at ease.
The standoff continued, as they wandered off into a field....
.....where the incumbent tiger, distracted by the challenger, suddenly came face to face with a 2,000 lb. male Gaur (Indian Bison), who immediately stood to full height, stomped, snorted, and confronted the tiger. (at this point, I put down my camera to watch - luckily, our lodge owner kept shooting, and this and the next 3 pics are his - very grateful that he was willing to share)
The tiger makes a narrow escape...
Having made his point, the Gaur stormed ahead and eventually came to a stop near our jeep - such an awesome and lucky thing to experience!
Around 30 min later, we came upon a third male. This guy was quite old, and while once the territorial king, had lost some battles and was now surviving by going outside the park and taking down cattle.
The challenger from the previous pics had given up on the first tiger, but had then encountered this guy, and the two had engaged in a fight. The bloodied warrior looked tired, but still dignified.
Another of my favorite pics - I like the B&W - to me, they have more of an emotional quality than the color shots.
Last look - loved the light on this one...
This is our star travel crew on the day we began our journey to Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves: Me (left), Jagpreet Singh Pabla (middle), Patrick Dykstra (right)
Article and Pictures by Gypsy Justin Houghton