Game of Thrones

Copyright © Ratish Nair 2020

It was in the year 2015 that I first visited Tadoba and was bowled over by the beauty of Maya – the enchantress. A massive crowd puller, it is believed that she has independently contributed to revenues of over $ 100,000 for Tadoba over the last few years. 2016 was when I first heard about how Matkasur and Gabbar (2 legendary tigers of Tadoba) fought over Maya, with Gabbar having to end his reign.

Matkasur took over. Three years later, Maya was bringing up her 3rd litter – Meera and Surya (the biggest pre monsoon attraction then).We lost Meera to an unfortunate incident and Surya was not spotted for quite some time but later it was found that he came back to the core. However, it is this beast in the picture Chota Matka (chota is a Hindi word that stands for ‘small’) who is currently the star attraction at Tadoba. His calm demeanor, massive size at the age of ~4 years (he is almost the size of his legendary father Matkasur if not more) make him a crowd puller.

As solitary territorial predators, tigers are having to compete fiercely to claim a slice of the jungle kingdom at Tadoba. The gargantuan efforts required to thrive in a jungle, hunt successfully, look for a mate, procreate to further lineage, truly test this apex predator.

The law of the jungle – “Survival of The Fittest” is unfolding into a very exciting, thrilling and bloody saga at Tadoba. Tales of Chota Matka’s fearless attempts to claim Maya’s territory is evidence of the fact that the tiger density in Tadoba is way higher than available jungle space for these predators to claim as territory.

It is also well known that Maya – the beautiful, bold and fearless tigress (after failed attempts to successfully raise cubs) had put in her very best effort to protect Meera & Surya. Her indomitable warrior spirit and sharp killer instinct ensured that she thwarted Chota Matka thrice in his attacks on her kingdom. This is further reflective of the plight of a tigress who has to put enormous effort to not only protect her litter, but feed them and many times find ways to escape unwanted advances from a tiger attempting to secure her for a mate, while being vigilant and brave in protecting her territory.

Chota Matka has not backed down from even challenging his father, the mighty Matkasur.

Chota Matka’s personality seems to be very unique vis–a –vis other tigers. His daring, repeated attempts to stake claim to his throne of choice – Pandharpauni are quite unusual for a tiger who has tasted defeat. It is also very rare for a tiger to come back for a fight after losing to the same opponent. It appears as though Chota Matka has planned some attack strategy after gathering learning from previous defeats to mount stronger and stronger attacks to claim his kingdom.

There came a time late last year when Matkasur wasn’t sighted in the park for some time. There was rising excitement to check if Chota Matka had done the unbelievable that is defeat the legendary Matkasur. However, this theory was laid to rest when Matka was seen on the 3rd of October 2019 limping through some curious safari vehicles after a possible fight with his son. This just goes on to prove that the feud is very much on.

Cute looking Surya, the lone survivor of Maya and Matka’s litter seems to have decided to stay away from feuding and has moved to Umred Kharandla in search of a new territory.

Life in the forest is never easy for tigers , but that is where they truly belong. It is now up to this amazing father and son duo to battle it out and stake claim to the throne that will rule Tadoba.

Some exciting stories are sure to unfold in the coming seasons.

     

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