Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Victory Does Not Come Easy in 100 Ha Camp!

Rambling Rose

A pair of brothers

Another pair of brothers

The Brothers in Hunter Palace

ITV news crew was so lucky. They were here to report on our story and while we were filming Hulooo brothers in the new 100 Ha camp late afternoon on March 25, 2010, we saw King Henry and Princess hunting across the open grassland, chasing the 15 blesbok. In no time however, we heard distress calls, which caught the attention of Hulooo brothers (that were being filmed), who took off immediately in the direction of the kill.

We drove quickly into 40 Ha and found King Henry and Princess in the riverine area, with King Henry playing with and subsequently protectively guarding his kill when we approached. Dr. Gary Koehler who was visiting remarked: "Li, I can see this will work!"

Next day was the first time we EVER drove inside a camp where 327 is around. As we knew, 327 loved humans and was very fond of playing with us when he first arrived at Laohu Valley.
I had to let him into the 3 Ha wilderness camp eventually after he refused to mate with the tigresses, and amazingly he became less and less interested in us humans. He stopped standing up trying to play with us and later even stopped coming to the fence to greet us. These were all very good signs. What amazed me even more was when I decided to let Cathay try again mating with him, he performed and became a father in December last year!

In the past I would have never dreamed of driving into a camp with him, wary that he might stand up against the vehicle. However, now that he seems to be behaving more like a wild tiger, I decided to take the risk and see his reaction towards us humans. I took Dr. Gary Koehler inside the 7 Ha camp in the Rhino and 327 was right at the gate. However he showed no interests in either our vehicle or us people. We drove next to where he was lying, he even walked away. What a positive change!

I had some trouble though! 327 decided to "possess" me by spraying. He didn't do it just once! Twice he directed his spraying intentionally at me and his juice shot right inside my open Rhino, covering my full face and body. I felt however proud that he was marking me as part of his territory, against his rival TigerWoods, who lay on the other side of the fence observing him.

Eleven weeks passed since Cathay mated with 327 and she still has not come into oestrus (she is with 327 in the same camp for monitoring). According to our experience, this means she is pregnant! If that's true, we should be expecting her and 327's babies around 20 April. 10 weeks had also gone by since Madonna mated 327. If our past experience is any indication at all, Madonna is also pregnant and should deliver beginning May.

It rained all night and pot holes popped up on the dirt road leading to Tiger camps, and when we arrived in the 40 Ha camp in the early hours of March 26 2010, King Henry was lying in the grass, with a half eaten kill lying a few meters away- another blesbok lost its life overnight. Then one more blesbok was taken in each night of Mar 29th and March 31st.

Meanwhile, ten days into the 100 Ha camp, Hulooo brothers are still trying to find their feet. They weren't being fed for about 4 months while King Henry and Princess occupied the 40 Ha hunting camp so were becoming a bit reliant, like many spoiled teenagers do. From time to time, they would chase the blesbok but for the most part, they spent their time exploring and sniffing the new large area. Tigers are territorial, they must familiarise with every piece of rock and every blade of grass in their domain.

On March 31st, JenB and Coco turned to 2 years of age. Seeing that Hulooo brothers didn't have the will to hunt, I decided to first put them back into the 40 Ha camp, where they hunted only too well before, to get their drive back in familiar ground. I also wanted King Henry and Princess to go into 100 Ha, seeing they have been hunting for 4 months successfully in 40Ha.

It proved to be a challenge to swap the two groups of tigers. It took several days and some re-work on the iron gates linking the two camps before we finally succeeded in getting them swapped. Hulooo brothers were certainly busy, as they made 2 kills in the first night, and one can see their confidence was back as they no longer whined for food when we finally found them among the trees, just quietly enjoying our company.

King Henry and Princess were not idle either. We saw them busy stalking prey the second day inside the 100 Ha camp. 4 days into 100 Ha they were still not successful. King Henry came to the Gate when he saw us Monday April 5th, but left with the look of disappointment when he realised no food were forthcoming from his human carers. He ate grass while he walked away in the thunderstorm as if protesting. He also tried to call his sister-the first roars we ever heard from him. We were just going to give them another day to see if they would catch anything before we fed them. It would not be good to starve them too much that they loose the strength to hunt.

The next morning April 6th, we first tallied the number of blesbok in 40 Ha -three blesbok missing. Good hunting weather certainly aided Hulooo brothers who were getting too good. And in 100 Ha, it was much harder to count the blesbok. We counted numerous times and would not believe that the actual number had indeed dropped to 42 from 43, though we were all praying for that. Well, we could no longer deny the fact any more- King Henry and Princess had actually made their first kill in the 100 Ha camp overnight! These young ones also took advantage of the bad weather and their victory made history.