Royal Bengal tiger ‘Sonam’ and cubs

In Tadoba national park, central India, we were travelling in our open-top jeep when our driver skidded to a halt and reversed just a few yards.  Leaning out of his open window, he pointed to a pugmark in the sand.  A female tiger had passed this way just a few moments before.  We followed the track until it turned left into the forest.  Our driver shot off on a circular route to get to the other side of the woodland as soon as he could.  Eventually, we turned out onto a tarmac road and travelled left on a parallel route to the one where we had seen the print.  Shortly afterwards, we were rewarded by an amazing sight.  The adult female, known as ‘Sonam’  was walking along the road towards us.  Then, gradually, one cub appeared, followed by another and yet another until five cubs joined their mother to saunter towards us.  Four of the youngsters are this year’s cubs but the fifth is a male from last year who apparently doesn’t feel like leaving home just yet.  A familiar story in many households.

There are strict rules about keeping distance between the jeep and the animals so we were constantly on the move – in reverse.  But this gave me great opportunities for photos as the family followed on behind.  This sighting was totally due to the skills of the trackers and it wasn’t the only time they demonstrated an uncanny judgement about the whereabouts of otherwise invisible animals.

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