If there is one place on earth where one can see Tigers in the wild, it is India. No wild animal on the planet has captured the imagination of humans as much as a Tiger. There is much written about the Tigers in Hindu mythology. And the Tiger is the most revered, and feared animal in the forests of India.
A lot has been documented about him, including a fact that there were 40000 Tigers in the wilds of India at the turn of the previous century (E.P. Gee). How this figure of 40000 was arrived none know. But what is beyond doubt is the fact that the Tiger is the largest, and the most powerful feline.
The Tiger vs the Lion
Many debate about who is stronger, the Tiger or the Lion. There were areas where the Lions and Tigers coexisted. But over a period of time the Tigers debarred the lions from frequenting the forest tracts, and this no doubt was an important cause of disappearance of Lions from central India.
There is no doubt in my mind about the superiority of a Tiger over the Lion. The swiftness of a Tiger, and the speed at which he can give lethal blows is not to be expected from a Lion. Besides, a Tiger can stand and deliver blows unlike a Lion. Tiger’s agility to turn around faster is also to his advantage. Importantly, let us not forget that a Tiger since the age of 2 plus kills on his own to live. Lions often are known to take kills from Lionesses. So a Tiger is more apt at killing and a better survivor compared to a Lion. Tiger is a perfect killing machine.
Dunbar Brander the most widely travelled hunter naturalist describes seeing a Tiger smash the skull of a buffalo bait by the blow of the paw. In 1969, in Kanha a Tiger had killed a 800 kg Gaur and dragged uphill through some rocks and bamboo clamps. This is extra-ordinary, or should i say super-natural. In 1965 Shri M K Ranjitsinhji trailed a Tiger who had killed and dragged a 350kg buffalo almost 800 m uphill.
So the strength, stamina, speed, and stealth all are stacked in favor of a Tiger vs a Lion debate.
Tiger vs Man
Let us also be clear on another debate here. In my opinion no man is born yet who can fight a Tiger bare hand. Tiger need not bite a human to kill, just a blow on the head is enough to break the neck. The best way to fight a Tiger is not to fight a Tiger. I have published a separate blog on this. You may read the same by clicking here. It is possible for a human to fight a Leopard, but a Tiger please do not even consider it as Tiger is the most efficient engine of destruction walking on the planet. There is a record of Lady Smythies fighting a Tiger bare hand in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, now in Uttrakhand, and she did not live to tell the tale.
Adaptibility of the Tiger
Wide distribution of a Tiger in itself is a proof of his adaptability and superiority. From surviving at sea levels in the Sunderbans to beyond 12000 feet is no mean an accomplishment. From a 48 degree celsius temperature in Rajasthan to a -48 in Siberia, is a tale in itself in adaptation. Only a Leopard is more versatile amongst the felids.
Tiger is a silent animal, but is known to vocalise in some forests more than others. Dunbar Brander says that he found the Tigers of Sal forest to be more vocalising compared to mix and other forests. I would surely believe the same, as i have heard Tigers roar in Kanha and Corbett much more than elsewhere. Also they are known to roar often in the winter months compared to summers. These roars have territorial and sexual connotations. I have heard in Kanha Tigers roar on hearing the roar of another Tiger.
Tigers are prolific breeders. Give them space, food, water, and they will occupy it instantly.
Some legends because of whom we see the Tiger
Tiger is an enigma, which we have not fully understood yet. There have been several people in the past who have spend several decades with the Tigers from very close quarters, and have documented their observations. We are indebted to the works of legends like James Forsyth, Robert Sterndale, Dunbar Brander, F W Champion, Jim Corbett, Keith Anderson, E A Smythies, Kailash Sankhla, M K Ranjitsinh and Divyabhanusinh. Not from any political bias, but this list will be incomplete if the name of our Late Prime Minister India Gandhi is not added to this. For it is due to her leadership and path breaking policies that we have our Tigers and forests today. A heartfelt gratitude to you all.
I will like to end this note by thanking to the Tiger himself for bearing all the brunts of our (humans) wrong doings. For tolerating such a greedy species as ours. Most of us have been busy in taking away your home, your food, and importantly your life But your faith that someday we will change is inspiring. I am sure someday we will. Hopefully the day is not so far.
Sharad Kumar Vats
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.