Blondes Have More Fun
The advantage of having habituated wild tigers is
that I am able to study their behavior in intimate detail
The white tigress Tibo who produced 3 cubs on the
21st of November 2014 has revealed some fascinating behavior
For 2 years Tibo mates with 3 different males,
Sundarban, Shy Boy and Tiger Boy. None of the three males are
productive. (Sundarban suffers from cryptorchidism, Shy Boy and Tiger
Boy are vasectomized)
In August of 2014, after fathering 3 cubs with Ussuri,
the male tiger Sariska extends his territory to encompass a small part
of Tibo's territory.
After mating with Tibo and successfully impregnating
her, Sariska does not worry to defend his new territory and withdraws to
defend the territory where Ussuri is raising her cubs
Tibo’s 4 normal coloured cubs are born in a thicket
near the eastern boundary of her territory. One of the cubs is stillborn
and I film Tibo removing the dead cub from the den and taking it into
the reeds and eating it.
The surviving cubs are suckled by Tibo and she proves
to be an extraordinarily good mother.
Every 4 to 6 days she moves her cubs to a new den
site. All the den sites are carefully chosen and are either in thick
bush, dense reeds or rocky outcrops.
During this time, she is vulnerable to attack from
the dominant male Tiger Boy ,who is not the father of her cubs. However
Tiger Boy is never seen in the vicinity of her den, so perhaps he never
ever sees the cubs.
A while later a male tiger, Mahindra, takes over the
territory and removes Tiger Boy. Mahindra is Tibo's brother, so I reason
this is a better scenario for her as he actually has an investment in
the cubs because he is related to Tibo.
I film Mahindra in the vicinity of the den and on one
occasion, I can hear him "chuffing" the cubs in the den. Tibo shows no
aggression towards him when he is near the den so I presume my theory of
"investment in cubs" is correct.
Then an extraordinary thing happens, Tibo comes into
a full estrus and begins mating with Mahindra. This has been observed
once with leopards but is extremely rare. Tibo should in fact only come
back into estrus when her cubs have dispersed after 30 months.
Tibo mates continually for 4 days and shows no
indication to return to the cubs during this time. (It is possible that
she does return at nights to suckle)
After the mating is complete, she still doesn't
return to the den, so the obvious conclusion is she has lost the cubs.
However, a few things do not add up. The cubs were seen alive the day
before she started mating. She cannot lose cubs and the following day be
in estrus, it's not possible.
If Mahindra was going to kill the cubs, he should
surely have killed them on the first day he found them. He did not do
Is it possible that Tibo's sister, Indira, who
occupies the territory next to Tibo, snuck into the den and killed the
cubs while Tibo was away from the den? This would be highly unusual and
Indira has never ever been seen near the den site.
Is Tibo able to bring herself into estrus to increase
the bond with her brother Mahindra, who is protecting her and her cubs?
Is she behaving like a Bonobo and exchanging sexual
favours for the protection she receives from Mahindra?
Why is she not returning to the cubs in between
mating? Is sex such a driving force that she will ignore the cubs?
This seems unlikely, especially as she has been such
a good mother for the 6 weeks.
If anyone can throw any light or give any suggestion
for her behavior, would you please contact me. I must admit I am
baffled, but then blondes have been baffling me for years.
Tread lightly on the Earth
PS. BREAKING NEWS……………………… Just before going to
print, Tibo’s 3 cubs have been seen alive in a new den site. All are
Shashe the cheetah mother continues to raise her 5
cubs. All are healthy