Tiger sightings in national parks change in every park in every zone, and every year. There are several factors involved in this. But the Top 7 factors that impact tiger sightings in a national park are:
Tiger Sightings in National Parks – A new litter by a tigress
If the tigress has just given birth, her sightings will reduce for a few weeks as she will need to take care of her young ones. Though she does not leave the area, she moves her cub to a safe place, maybe in a small cave. Their safety is her top priority. When the cubs grow to more than 4-5 months they need food often, so the tigress is then more active.
Gradually when cubs are over 4-5 months she starts to move with them to familiarise them with their territory. This is when the tiger sightings are at a peak.
While on a tiger safari in India, one can see the tigress with cubs in water, together on a kill, or walking on a trail together. Till the time the cubs are 9-12 months, they are often seen with their mother, practically daily. But when they are more than a year old, i.e. when they can handle leopards on their own, they start to wonder slightly on their own but make sure that they are at a call distance from their mother. And the mother is extremely vigilant and ensures that there is no other predator in her territory. She allows their father to come, but not any other male tiger.
The advent of a new male tiger – Tiger Sightings in National Parks
There are occasions a new male tiger enters the area and this forces the tigress with cubs to alter her behavior. She will protect her cubs by moving them often, and this can impact the tiger sightings in national parks too. The expert naturalist during tiger safaris is able to identify the new male pug marks and thus realize the reasons for disturbance in the tiger sightings.
But if the new male arrives when she is with her cubs, she will fight to kill to save her cubs. Mostly the intruder will leave the place. But if she encounters the new male when she is on her rounds and not with her cubs she will distract the male and not let him come close to her cubs. She knows that her cubs need her so she will not fight with this male, and maybe guide him to another area.
Even another tigress is not allowed to get close to her cubs. For there is a possibility that the other tigress will kill the cubs as she might see them as a threat to her own territory when they are more than 3 years old. So kill them when they are young.
There are quite a few instances like this in practically all the parks. Just two years back a popular tigress in the Corbett Dhikala zone lost her only surviving cub to another tigress from the neighboring territory. Similar incidents are also reported from other parks also.
Cubs become sub-adults and move on – Tiger Sightings in National Parks
When the cubs grow beyond two years of age, they are more or less independent and have learned to kill. This is the time they separate thus impacting the tiger sightings in national parks in an area. So, in an area where you were seeing 3-4 tigers daily, sightings just dry up there.
The territorial fight between males – Tiger Sightings in National Parks
Another best tiger sighting while on Tiger Safari in India could be a territorial fight. There are times when two male tigers fight over a territory or a tigress. If one tiger is injured it impacts the tiger sightings in national parks temporarily. If both the tigers are injured then again the sighting can be affected for a few days, depending on the nature and seriousness of the injury. When one male tiger dies then that void is filled by another tiger. But this can take some time.
Water can impact Tiger Sightings in National Parks
This is one of the most common factors that impact tiger sightings. If there is less rainfall in the area, and the water holes start to dry up, tigers start to wander more in search of water and food. This can lead to tiger fights between two big males. But a tiger will not mind sharing the water hole with a tigress and her cubs, or with a sub-adult tiger also till time the sub-adult behaves and does not challenge the big male.
There are rare occasions when one has seen a big male, a tigress with her cubs, and a sub-adult tiger of another mother and father in the same water hole. Please see this rare video footage shot in Kanha National Park.
Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RyLHUoK378
Lack of water can also reduce the food for prey animals thus getting them to migrate from an area which also leads the tigers to move.
Tiger on a kill
Tigers kill regularly. Depending on the size of their kill they can abstain from coming out on tracks during the safaris timings. If one tiger is on a sambar deer kill he will stay close to the kill and will be in the area for 3-4 days at least. During these times he will only go for visits to the water hole twice a day, or maybe a small walk. He will not leave the kill unattended for long.
So your chances of tiger sightings in national parks are if you position your vehicle close to a water hole. But if the water is available close to where he is eating then chances of his sightings become remote for those 3-4 days. A tiger might kill in the open but he will drag his kill to a point where he does not anticipate any disturbance from safari vehicles, or even the vultures and other scavengers until he is done.
Sudden changes in weather, temperature, overcast, and rainfall can impact Tiger Sightings in National Parks
If the temperature suddenly drops or increases it can alter the tiger sighting temporarily. Even a sudden rain will impact the tiger sighting. It is noted that if a tiger is walking and it starts to rain then he will continue walking. But if he is relaxing and it rains then he will move only when the rain stops. So if you happen to be in a park and the weather changes then your chances of seeing tigers during safaris are altered considerably.
By Sharad Kumar Vats