AN­I­MAL MAGIC

In the sec­ond part of our se­ries on un­miss­able new BBC wildlife show Dy­nas­ties, the team wit­nesses a big cat’s dra­matic bat­tle with her own daugh­ter

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS -

Part two of our se­ries on epic BBC show Dy­nas­ties fol­lows a ti­gress and a painted wolf both at war with their daugh­ters

Af­ter the stun­ning suc­cess of Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II, Sir David At­ten­bor­ough re­turns to our screens to­mor­row night to present a brand new wildlife spec­tac­u­lar – Dy­nas­ties. The five-part se­ries, four years in the mak­ing, fol­lows five cap­ti­vat­ing and elu­sive crea­tures – li­ons, tigers, chim­panzees, em­peror pen­guins and painted wolves – as they try to pro­tect their off­spring and pre­serve their blood­line. As Stephen Moss re­veals in his book ac­com­pa­ny­ing the show, there’s love and de­vo­tion, tragedy and tri­umph. Sit back and en­joy the fam­ily drama of the year...

Raj Bhera is the ruler of a tiger dy­nasty that goes back at least a cen­tury. A fully grown fe­male, she is five years old, strong and ex­pe­ri­enced, with a grown-up daugh­ter named Solo whose ter­ri­tory is close to hers. They live in Band­hav­garh Na­tional Park, 500 miles south of Delhi. Cre­ated in 1968, the park is pa­trolled by For­est Depart­ment guards on ele­phant back to pre­vent poach­ing. Dhruv Singh, who is from the area, knows th­ese tigers’ long his­tory. ‘Raj Bhera lives in the shadow of Band­hav­garh fort, an an­cient city once home to ma­hara­jahs,’ he says. ‘Her dy­nas­tic rule echoes that of the peo­ple who lived here.’

Raj Bhera has a lit­ter of cubs – three male and one fe­male – hid­den in a den in a re­mote, hilly part of the park. Her task is to raise them from birth through to adult­hood and in­de­pen­dence. She will only achieve that goal if she is able to find enough food for her and them, while at the same time de­fend­ing her ter­ri­tory against in­trud­ers. And she will have to do this all on her own be­cause, af­ter mat­ing, male tigers play no part in rais­ing the fam­ily.

Her cubs, whose eyes open roughly a week af­ter they are born, stay in the safety of the den for eight weeks or so, be­ing fed on their mother’s milk. They grow rapidly: by the time they are four weeks old their weight has in­creased four­fold. Af­ter a cou­ple of months, Raj Bhera grad­u­ally starts to wean the cubs onto solid food, though she will con­tinue to pro­duce milk un­til they are about six months old.

Sadly, the chances of any cub reach­ing ma­tu­rity are less than 50/50. They may die from ac­ci­dents, at­tacks by male tigers, poach­ing and other hu­man en­coun­ters, bad weather, con­flicts with other preda­tors such as leop­ards, or star­va­tion. Cubs are keen to ex­plore their sur­round­ings – like all young mam­mals, this is the way they learn – so Raj Bhera has to keep a con­stant eye out for dan­ger. Cubs also en­joy play-fight­ing, which is cru­cial in learn­ing the skills they need to make a life on their own.

With a new fam­ily to look af­ter, Raj Bhera can­not pa­trol her ter­ri­tory – roughly eight square miles – as of­ten or as dili­gently as she did. So a ri­val fe­male pushes into a key part of Raj Bhera’s ter­ri­tory. This in­truder is no stranger, but her adult daugh­ter, Solo. Now nearly three years old, Solo moves into one of Raj Bhera’s best hunt­ing areas, with a very high den­sity of graz­ing an­i­mals. Solo could take her mother’s prey, putting the new cubs at risk.

Raj Bhera and Solo come face to face af­ter Raj Bhera has made a kill. Se­cretly, Solo was watch­ing. Grad­u­ally, Solo edges nearer and nearer, un­til her mother can no longer tol­er­ate her pres­ence. Now Solo is fully grown, she could take the kill from Raj Bhera.

Raj Bhera has to show Solo who’s boss. Yet she hes­i­tates, re­al­is­ing per­haps for the first time that her daugh­ter has grown into a real ri­val. The con­fronta­tion teeters on the brink of a fullscale fight. But Raj Bhera raises her­self up to full height and Solo adopts a sub­mis­sive pose, rolling onto her back. For now, Raj Bhera has won. Her age and strength keep her in charge. But soon Solo will start her own fam­ily and will have to en­ter her mother’s ter­ri­tory once again. By this stage, she will be far more ex­pe­ri­enced – and she might win the bat­tle for supremacy be­tween the gen­er­a­tions.

At this point, each time Raj Bhera makes a kill the three big­ger, stronger male cubs come in to feed straight­away, leav­ing lit­tle or noth­ing for their smaller sis­ter, Biba. So one day while her broth­ers and mother sleep, Biba goes to feed on the re­mains of a kill. She

‘Raj Bhera’s dy­nas­tic rule echoes that of ma­hara­jahs’

Raj Bhera at the hid­den den with her young cubs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.