Survival of the Fittest– Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Social organization among tigers varies with the quality of habitat in a given area, the determinant of quality of habitat in a given area the determinant of quality being the relative abundance of prey and optimum hunting cover. In a high-prey-density area the territorial definition of land tenures is prominent in such an area the dominant male occupy very extensive territories as large as 20 to 40 sq miles up to three or even five females may occupy mutually exclusive sub- territories with in a large male territories. The female in such an organization are assured of food supply for themselves and their progeny and in return owe allegiance to the territorial male this also affords protection to their cubs from rival males as the territorial male meticulously demarcates and jealously guard his territory against rivals. Such as a high prey density area in a region thus curves as the main natal area with most of the breeding taking place there. Moving radially away from the natal area as the prey density decline the territorial definition also becomes less rigid.
The young cubs stay under the care of the mother for anything from 1and half to 2 and half years where after they are compelled to leave the natal area but a young tiger is seldom able to find a place in the adjacent medium prey density areas because of their firm occupation by either the past prime adults recently thrown out from the natal area or the pre prime adults preparing to find a foothold there, Thus a young tiger dispersing from the natal area may be required to travel far and may in fact remain transient in the low prey density peripheral area for a long time if contiguous tiger habitats are available such as dispersing sub adult may never return to its natal area may in fact join another nearby population thus ensuring the exchange of genes so essential to the viability of the population of a long ranging major predator like the tiger.
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve Male demarcate their territory by spraying scent with their urine on prominent threes on their territorial boundaries. They also often deposit their scent on the underside of the drooping branch of low bush this way the scent lasts longer, preserved from excessive evaporation or from being washed away by rain. Another and simultaneous way of marking territory is to make scrapes on the ground and tree trunks with the paws and then to deposit a foul-smelling secretion from the anal grand. These markings are intelligible to the other tigers and are recognized territorial integrity is further maintained by frequent patrolling. The female also mark their territories in the same manner but not as frequently or meticulously. The intensity of scent markings by a female becomes very high when she is in estrus and ready to have mate. Her physiological condition is advertised by this scent and helps attract the male the courtship period usually spread over a weak or 10 days but the actual mating period may be only two or three days during which copulation is frequent . Such prolonged association of the courting pair is necessary among cats in whom ovulation is promoted by frequent copulation. The gestation period in case of tiger is short being about 105 days because the tigress even during the terminal days or her pregnancy has to hunt for her; nature has ensured that her pregnancy does not disable her from doing so. It is for this reason that the gestation period is so short the foetal size at birth small and the stage of development of the cubs when they are born rather low in order to provide against likely losses in rearing from this low developmental stag at birth the litter size tends to be large up to six
Bothe the male and the females occupying the natal area are prime members of a population and such occupancy of prime habitats by prime adult is indeed a corollary to the axiom, survival of the fittest This ensures that only the best animal of both sexes are able to breed. Expectedly therefore confrontations take place among dominant tigers particularly males in order to establish supremacy and possess a territory. Such confrontations may range from a skirmish to a serious fight. Depending upon the match between the contenders. All out fight are by no means uncommon and very serious and deep wound may be sustained. Such grievous wound may not heal and may eventually cause death after few day or even weeks. However tigers are generally able to heal their entire wound by licking them. Where direct licking is not possible they manage to reach the spot and apply saliva by first depositing it one of the limbs usually a forearm and then wiping the injury with the limb Its is those injuries on which saliva cannot be applied and those that are too deep and grievous that prove fatal. Usually in the natal area a wounded tiger may be helped by another tiger mate by the mate and mother by young.
In one case a huge territorial male was observed over the carcase of an only slightly smaller male he had killed in an encounter. The former cannibalized and persisted on the kill for four day in much the same manner as he might persist over a herbivore kill. The intriguing aspect was that the killing was not made by the conventional method. No canine marks were seen on the neck or the nape of the carcase. It appeared that the smaller male had intruded in the territory of the larger male in the belief that the later was away from the intruded segment of its territory but the presence of the smaller male was probably advertised to the territorial male by the alarms calls of langur of the deer and this altered the territorial male and brought him out in search of the intruder may have offered submission which the territorial master was not magnanimous enough aspect. He probably therefore took the intruder by surprise by holding his head between his forepaws and twisting his neck with vicious jerk snapping the spinal cord.
Even sub adult male are not tolerated and there have been numerous other recorded instance the half grown cubs having been killed and partly eaten by the territorial male. Tigers are also known to kill and eat leopards. However such internecine fight should not be regarded as being in quest of food even though the killed animals may have been eaten It should also not cause excessive worry in terms of loss of a member of rare and endangered species. In nature this in only the mean of auto regulation of the population of a supreme predator.