The royal tigresses in Tadoba National Park were known to be pretending interest in sex due to the shrinking wild habitat and intersecting territories. India’s expanding human populations had further pushed tigers into small, secluded habitats—and given rise to in some strange behaviors in one of the best tiger reserve in India.
When Maya, a prominent tigress in India’s Tadoba Tiger Reserve, disowned her likewise adored young cubs few months ago, park officials feared for the worst. Shortly in one of the Tadoba Tiger Safari, Maya was spotted mating with some wandering males, apparently unworried about her 1 year old litter. The native environmentalists thought Maya’s behavior is essentially a proof of a wily new strategy to help safeguard her cubs’ survival: “false mating.”
Like many animals—comprising bears, lions and dolphins—male tigers are ought to murder the cubs of their rivals every time they can, so as to initiate a fast new estrus cycle and impregnate the tigress with their own litter. Tiger moms usually seek to shield their cubs from such a doom for 18-24 months, prior to pushing them out to form their own territories. (Since Tiger fathers have no role in nurturing the young, there is no help to them.)
However, the crowded conditions in Tadoba Tiger Reserve and other best tiger reserves in India had been making that increasingly difficult. “The ranges of numerous wandering rivals habitually overlapped with the dominant males, bringing danger uncertainly close to vulnerable cubs”, said Bilal Habib, a carnivore investigator at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
“In high-density zones, where there are comparatively more males, the best strategy for a female is to try to abandon the cubs at the earliest, go with the male tigers, and then again go back and search for her litter,” Habib clarified. “If she tries to battle with the males, it may be deadly for her and fatal for the little cubs.”
The term “false mating”—which happens among lions and other wild species—is a little deceptive. It denotes to actual sex, just not at the time when a female is able to give birth. (Typically, tigresses go into estrus once every 3-9 weeks, and are most possible to conceive during 3-6 days within that period.) Habib’s theory was that Maya is used sex not to conceive, but to calm the wandering male tigers and possibly made them think they have effectively impregnated her. Subsequently, she returned back to her little cubs, leaving the pacified male none the wiser.
Other Tadoba wildlife safari researchers said Maya’s apparently strange mating habits were merely the tip of the iceberg. Overlapping terrains in Tadoba National Park had raised all sorts of strange tiger behaviors, comprising of more regular fighting and dominant males seemingly bearing rivals. In some crowded terrains, serial mating with various males suggested the probability that tiger litters—like those of domestic cats—might even have several fathers.
Though scientists had a plethora of information from confined breeding programs, astonishingly little was known about the finer points of tiger reproduction in the jungle since there had been quite a few long-term breeding studies, said Raghunandan Singh Chundawat, a conservation biologist who had issued papers on Tiger Mating Behavior and Tiger Safari in India.
For example, in some cases, tigresses had been unsuccessful to conceive after about 30 couplings and then strangely became pregnant. It’s known that friction from the shrill spines of the male’s penis is necessary to encourage ovulation. Although, the variance in the number of matings that were important for conception had led to the theory that tigresses, like numerous other animals, may be able to control whether or not they ovulate.
While that common access had led to greater genetic diversity and stopped rival males from killing little cubs, it had also proved challenging. High-density zones witnessed more frequent infighting between rival males and defensive females alike. And for mothers like Maya who ditched their cubs early were itself paving a way for terrible implications.