Kanha National Park, located in India, is a nature reserve where inhabit tigers and a variety of wild species.
Of the eight subspecies of tiger existing only a century ago, only five remain and one of these, the Chinese tiger, is on the verge of extinction. The Bengal tiger is the most numerous subspecies. In India, where its population is highest, there are between 5,000 and 7,000, scarcely a reflection of the 100,000 and more which lived at the end of the last century. And of all the places on the Indian subcontinent, it is here, in Kahn, where the tigers have the largest and most stable population.
When a tiger prowls through the jungle, animals emit their warning signs. The tiger’s skin makes it invisible in the shadows of the jungle. Measuring over three metres from muzzle to tail and weighing an average of 230 kilograms, the camouflage of the largest feline is fundamental in allowing it to approach its prey, despite which, it usually needs twelve attempt to catch one.
The herbivores living in the Kanha jungles are potential prey for the tigers, Only the guar, mistakenly called the Indian bison, commands respect from the feline. The guar is the largest wild bovid on earth and is another of Kanha’s zoological wonders.
The calves are the only ones that the tigers and dholes can attack successfully, if they manage to separate them from their mothers. But the adults are too powerful. The large males wander alone through the bamboo forests. One thousand kilograms of brute force and almost two metres in height make them almost impossible to catch for the majority of Kanha predators. Armed with an extremely well-developed sense of smell, the guars are permanently on the alert to everything that surrounds them.
For only a few days in the year, tigresses are sexually receptive. Courtship can last a week or ten days and only in places where the tiger density is sufficiently high can they find a male to mate with them.
In a world in which they are increasingly rare, the coupling of tigers is extraordinarily difficult to watch. Copulation takes place between 20 and 50 times a day for a period of between two and five days and always in the deepest depths of the jungle.
During the exhausting courtship, both male and female need frequent rests. The gestation period is short, approximately 15 weeks, because if a tigress had a long gestation, carrying a large foetus, she would become sluggish and unable to hunt for herself. In the world of the tiger, the mother takes complete care of raising the cubs and once the courtship has ended, the male is transformed into a potential enemy for the litter.
The mating of this couple represents hope for the threatened population of the most powerful and handsome of the feline species. In Kanha, it is estimated that the population totals approximately 100, but in a country with over one thousand million inhabitants eager for fertile land, the future of the tiger continues to be a worrying unknown entity.