Since time immemorial, Central Indian national parks have been regarded as Tiger havens, perfect for spotting and photographing the massive cat. Sightings in the South Indian parks like Kabini however, were so sparse that they were barely given any thought. Bandipur was often regarded as the home of the Tigers in South India, with Tigers like Gauri and the Aralikatte Male holding the spotlight for years.
Over the course of the last decade, Kabini has dethroned Bandipur as the home of the Big Cats in South India. Until the year 2015, Kabini was known as the land of the leopards, for good reason. There was an increasing number of leopards being sighted in the park, while tigers still remained elusive. Sighting the tigers of Kabini are now not only a reasonable expectation but also a very good possibility.
To read about the leopards, check out our Leopards of Kabini Blog!
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The rare tiger sightings, however, lasted mere seconds, were from hundreds of metres away, and the tigers darted into the bush before one even caught a good look at them. But that all changed in the year 2015. From then on, Kabini has boasted some of the best sightings in South India. The glorious tigers of Kabini have grown increasingly used to safari vehicles, and now don’t shy away from walking head-on towards the jeeps, like they did a decade or so ago.
For tips, tricks and advice on how to optimise your shooting skills to photograph these big cats, head on over to our Top 10 Tips to Photograph Big Cats blog! (upcoming)
Tiger activity in the park has increased to the point where tiger families and lineages have been documented and tracked, and in this blog, we give you a glimpse at some of the star tigers of Kabini. These days it’s quite possible to have a Kabini tiger sighting.
The Tiger Tank Family
The legendary Tiger Tank family, whose lineage rules a large part of Kabini’s tourism zone began with a tigress called the Tiger Tank Female. Her litter of 3 cubs, probably born in July 2015, were first sighted by the Forest Department patrol vehicles in October 2015, in a little part of the forest called Burning Place. Just 3 months old, a litter of two females and a male, they were already the hopes for the future of Tiger sightings in Kabini. Only time would tell if they were ready to take on the mantle of the throne that their mother currently commanded.
The seasons flew by and what were once three chubby cubs gambolling about in their mother’s wake, had grown to be gorgeous, resplendent tigers who were viewed as a visual delight by every tourist who had caught a glimpse of the reigning dynasty of Kabini. The scene was set for these three tigers of Kabini to take over the range previously controlled by their mother, so it was extremely unfortunate when one of the female tigers died to electrocution near the Backwaters in 2018.
The surviving tigers from the litter are now named the Tiger Tank Female and the Tiger Tank Male. Bold, brave and brawny, they are magnificent Kabini tigers, often sighted by tourists. Though their mother is no longer sighted, these tigers look set to control the park for years to come.
The Backwater Family (Prominent lineage of the Tigers of Kabini)
The original Backwater Female tigress gave birth to a litter of two female cubs, around the same time Kabini saw a spike in Tiger sightings, around mid-2014. The cubs probably parted ways a year or so later, with one of the female cubs rumoured to have crossed the Kabini River, over to the Bandipur side to establish a home range of her own, while her sister took over the areas previously controlled by her mother.
The original Backwater Female had another litter of four cubs but unfortunately died soon after due to a tranquillizer overdose apparently. The cubs were never seen again, while her daughter from the first litter has taken on her name as the Backwater Female of Kabini.
Hailed as the most dominant tigress Kabini has ever seen, she also holds the reputation for being the boldest of the lot. Often seen strutting across the road like a goddess, she almost seems to pose for the cameras every time she’s sighted. She has raised two litters of cubs, probably fathered by the dominant Tiger Tank Male, the first litter of three males, and the second of two females and a male, who as of 2020, are looking to grow into strong tigers of Kabini, who will eventually establish territories of their own through the same hallowed paths walked by their mother and grandmother.
The Russell Line Family
While Tiger sightings in Kabini became more and more common in 2015-2016, a tigress known as the Russell Line Female, who had barely been sighted because she spent years shying away from safari vehicles, started to grow bolder and bolder.
The oldest tigress in Kabini, and often called the Tiger Godmother of Kabini, she has raised three litters of her own. Each one of the cubs have grown into tigers that control significant territory in the park, perhaps none more so than a famous tigress called the Temple Female, who has often been sighted, and is raising two cubs of her own.
The consort of the Russell Line Female is a tiger called the Russell Line Male, who is a relatively new entrant into the complex tiger dynamics of Kabini. He too was a tiger who was extremely shy when he was first sighted but has grown accustomed to vehicular activity through the course of his life.
Other Kabini Tiger Sightings?
Though these are some of Kabini’s most popular tiger families, the list truly wouldn’t be complete without the mention of earlier tigers of Kabini, like the Backwater Male, the KV Tank Male, or the Mastigudi Male. Dominant tigers of their day, they fathered multiple cubs, before the younger, stronger and bolder tigers took over their territories, forcing them to retreat deeper and deeper into the park, where they haven’t been sighted since.
Tigers who often showed promise, and were earmarked for fabulously famous futures, often went missing, either deep into the core of the forest, away from the tourism zone, or have been rumoured to have died, like the fierce Balle Female who had a litter of two cubs in 2015. She disappeared in late 2018, and her cubs were never seen either.
Another regrettable disappearance was of the Powerline siblings. A handsome male and a precocious female, they were frequently sighted until they disappeared in 2018, and the Tiger Tank Male took over the area and established his presence. There are rumours of the Powerline female’s movements through the park on an odd day, but there is no trace of her brother.
The Balle area has made way for a new race of tigers, led by one named the Bisilvadi Female, who is known for being extremely skittish and bashful, sprinting at the first approach of the safari vehicles. She is reported to have had a litter of her own, of two young cubs, but very little is known about the family as they spend a majority of their time concealed in the shadows of the park, far from the eyes of the tourists.
Another upstart, who is making his way up the ranks of Tiger dominance in Kabini is one named the Kymara Male, an exemplary display of grace, strength and finesse every time he’s seen stalking through the undergrowth. Only time will tell if he can bear the weight of the throne that is Kabini.
Kabini Tiger Families – Summary
The thriving number of Kabini Tiger population coupled with the frequency of their sightings and their increasingly bold nature has made Kabini a veritable haven for the animals, washing away decades of the stereotype that one must make a trip to Central India to spot the country’s national animal.
Every day, the forest is chock full of first-time safari-goers looking to see the world’s largest big cat in its natural habitat, in a raw display of its awesome power and grace, or established veteran photographers who have visited the park for years on end, and are hoping to sight some of their favourite tigers and make scintillating images. If this didn’t convince you to pack your bags and make for Kabini, read our blog on Why People Love Kabini!