How to Locate a tiger while on a tiger safari tour in India? There is no better experience than spotting a tiger while on a tiger safari tour in India. Tracking a tiger while on a safari requires a lot of skills, experience, knowledge, and understanding of the alarm calls made by preys on sighting the big cat. The driver and guide are well versed with routes inside different zones of the national parks in India. As per the latest policy only 20 percent of the total forest area is allowed for tourism purposes. . Locating a tiger is difficult as being an ambush hunter has crafted the art of camouflage. Tigers prefer to get close to the prey to ambush the prey without even alerting them.
What are the various factors that influence tiger sightings?
Many influencing factors affect the tiger sightings like the territory of male tiger that falls under tourism allowed areas within different zones, geography as the tiger is a highly adaptive cat and can be spotted in different topographies, weather and also sometimes luck as during the same safari some have a sighting of this highly elusive big cat and some don’t. One has to be present at the right time and at the right place to capture some stunning photographs of the tiger. Here’s a list of various factors that a guide and driver must observe during the tiger safari tour and have in-depth knowledge to get the best possibility for successfully tracking a tiger.
1. Past sighting at a particular place within a zone
Tiger is a territorial animal. It marks its territory daily, claiming to be the dominant male. and claiming all the tigresses within the area. In territorial fights between the two male tigers, sometimes the claim to the area might shift to the challenger, or the dominant tiger can defend its territory. These territorial fights can continue for days in which the losing tigers leave the territory or sometimes even result in the death of one of the two tigers.
2. Signs left by the tiger
A good guide and driver would always increase their chances of spotting tigers by following pugmarks, tiger scat, scent markings for creating boundaries of their territory, and hearing alarm calls. When early morning we enter for the safari we start seeing the presence of the predators though we may not see them but there signs like Pugmarks and scat marks are all around giving us an idea about the movement of the tiger. The most sensitive part of a Tiger or any cat is its paws, so to avoid the restriction they tend to walk on the safari tracks the soft soil tracks are the best to imprint their foot p[rints. These footprints will be the priority to check which side a Tiger has moved.
And following the tracks will take us to the place where we start hearing the distress calls of the herbivore, deer, sambar Langoor, Macaques, and sometimes even birds get along with them to help each other in surviving. The distress call is not the end of our search, now the wait begins…… Wait …. Wait… until a Tiger comes in open. Once it comes out in front of our eyes everything just gets pin drop to silence, we call it wow wow and wow just in our heart.
With our hands, we do all our things, and with the Jaw and their powerful limbs, the cats have become the most powerful hunters in the wild. Pugmarks are like our fingerprints of ours. Each tiger or cat has different size pugmarks. When there was no camera trap, the way the conservationists used to count the Tigers’ number was through the Pugmarks. Now the system has changed and made it much easier because of technology. Tigers are Nocturnal and Crepuscular, which means they are active in night, dawn, and dusk. In the morning when the safari starts we may see the pugmarks all around which is because these animals patrol the area marking their territory from the other intruders.
2.2. Scent and other markings
Tigers are highly territorial animals, they do not tolerate any intruder into their territory. But how do they embark on their territory? How do they mark their territory? Unlike humans they don’t fence the area, these animals secrets the citrus-scented mix of urine and anal gland to mark their territory. Tigers and many other animals communicate with chemical messages. If you have been on safaris then you may have seen a Tiger hugging a Tree and rubbing its chin head and scratching a tree bark. As a matter of fact, Tigers also secrete scent from their toes, head, chin, cheeks, and facial whiskers. To find a mate they also rely on scent; a female on estrous leaves the scent and a male would follow to find the same.
3. Alarm calls
What are alarm calls during the safaris? The answer to this is whenever a predator like Tiger, Leopard, Wild Dog, or even a Jackal walks nearby prey and prey happen to notice their presence than the prey like deers, sambar, wild boar and even birds like peacock gives a distinct call in distress, is called the alarm calls. Inside the park when we don’t even see the pugmarks listen to the jungle and you may listen to some alarm calls from some parts of the forest. Which says that there is the presence of a predator. So when you are in the jungle try to identify the distress calls from different animals. When there is a Tiger in front of the Jackal, even the jackal gives an alarm call quite similar to haloing.
4. Female with cubs
Tigress with cubs, a lifetime sighting, A tigress will stay with their cubs for around two years, and in the beginning, for almost three months they do not bring the cubs out. Mostly Mother stays out for the hunt and when the hunt is successful, Cubs are brought to the area. The chances of seeing Tigers increases when the cubs reach the age of 15 plus months. They start to roam and explore the area on their own. Especially during the summer when the water is scarce, there will be very few waterholes far from one another, you may see Tigress with the cubs playing on the water. Mother is the lifeline for the cubs, she teaches survival skills in the forest along with hunting. Sometimes, especially when cubs reach the age of 20 months they help their mother in hunting. There have been wonderful sightings at Tadoba in May with her cubs hunting the largest cattle in the world, the Gaur.
5. Prey density
For more predators, we need more prey. The territory of a Tiger is directly proportional to the number of prey inside the park. The more prey, the more the predator can survive in a particular forest. Pench National Park is one of the National Parks in India where the prey density is very high because of this all three top predators (Tigers, Leopards, and wild dogs) have flourished in the park.
6. Water bodies and type of forest
Summer starts in March, this is when tiger sightings increase considerably. The heat of the day slowly dries out the water hole inside the park, only a few waterholes will have water. To quench the thirst the prey and predators visit these water holes resulting in maximum sightings of tigers. To escape the scorching heat tigers tend to lie down in the water for some time.