My story starts with a trip to India to go on a Tiger safari. My girlfriend and I were both about to experience our first safari in India. It was a pretty quick trip because we had to be in Mumbai for a wedding so we really only had a handful of game drives but were both optimistic that we would be able to see some tigers. We travelled to Jaipur and then transferred to Rajashthan, which is where Ranthambore National Park is located. The story I'm about to tell you took place on our second drive as the first drive was relatively uneventful.
We began our tiger safari when we headed out for our afternoon drive and were told which zone of Ranthambore National Park we had been given, the news from this zone was that there was a Tiger (T-24 or Ustad) which had made a kill and it was expected that Ustad was feeding off the kill. We raced, to the area where Ustad had made the kill and when I say raced the driving was pretty extreme and most definitely fast. When we arrived at the kill we were able to locate the carcass but there was no sign of Ustad. As we were one of the first couple of vehicles to arrive we started to scour the area for signs of T-24. We unfortunately were not able to locate him but another vehicle was able to locate Ustad in a near by creek. They informed us of the location and we were able to have a quick glimpse of the mighty Ustad .
Now I've been on safaris on Africa and seen many different animals but this tiger safari would have to go down as one of my favourite sightings. Just because the animal was so majestic, he was lying in the creek with his body half submerged. He looked in our direction when we arrived and we were able to see in to his eyes. Its funny how when you are on safari and you stare in to an animals eyes you kind of feel like you are having a connection with that animal. This is how I felt with Ustad.
After a couple of minutes we returned to the road and began the wait. As there were now more cars we were forced to wait by the roads for Ustad to move. The main way we would be able to tell that he was moving was that there was a group of monkeys in a tree pretty close to Ustad and we expected them to get pretty excited when he was on the move. We waited about an hour and then some excitement started building in the group as it seemed the Ustad was on the move back to the kill.
We could hear and see the bushes moving but we really didn't get a good look at him until he returned to the kill. As we were one of the first cars at the scene we were positioned to have a good view of him returning to the kill. We watched him feed for a few minutes and moved away from the sight to give other cars a go.
All in all this tiger provided me with one of my all time favourite sightings. I really can't put in to words how it was when I first saw him and when we witnessed him feeding on the kill.
In the past week or so I've been seeing reports that it is suspected that this exact tiger (T-24), only weeks after we had seen him, has unfortunately killed a human. I'm not sure about the circumstances of what lead to the tiger and individual interacting but this interaction lead to the individual losing his life. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends for this tragedy.
Whilst this is not the first time Ustad has been suspected of killing a human, the articles I've seen have raised doubts as to if the tiger which killed this individual is Ustad but he is the one who has been punished for this event. In the past few days Ustad has been tranquilised and transferred to a zoo. This zoo, no bigger than a football field, is where the mighty Ustad will spend the rest of his days.
I find this deeply saddening.
For more information about Ustad's capture and past there was an article posted on the BBC website. Click here - Has an Indian 'man-eating tiger' been wrongly imprisoned?
There is petition on Facebook which is circulating to try and get numbers to save Ustad and his cubs. The link can be found on the Safari Stories Facebook page.