Friday, 26 November 2010

Killing Fields

King Henry and Princess made a complete cleaning of the blesbuck 42 Ha Tigers Roar camp so nothing was left for them to hunt. We decided to swamp them with Hulooo brothers who had been in the 100 Ha Hunters’ Palace camp. Hunters Place is very open in most parts of the camp with little cover, which presented a huge challenge for the tigers who are stalking ambushers that need cover. Dr. JD Smith remarked that if the tigers can hunt here in such open habitat, they should have the skills to hunt anywhere in the world, and would probably even have a much easier time hunting in their native habitat in China.

Despite the difficulties, Hulooo brothers managed to take advantage of stormy weathers, making kills of a good number of blesbuck and implalas who either took shelter in the dense bush areas that they avoid in calm weather conditions, or were disoriented by wind, thunder and lightening. We understand the challenge for a cover-needing tiger to hunt the third fastest African antelope –blesbuck, so we released a few bush-loving impalas into Hunters’ Palace. Interestingly, soon after two impalas became Hulooo brothers’s victims, the rest took to joining the blesbuck herd, running as the blesbuck run and eating as the blebuck eat. Still, another impala lost its life to the brothers.

Time for King Henry & Sister to give it a go in Hunters Palace as well. They were swapped with Hulooo brothers on November 14th. I can only say Bravo, youngsters! Since they went in, we had been unable to see them often, as they would hide themselves to consume fruits of their labour. Princess, being the shyest tiger at Laohu, was even a scarcer sight. On the rare occasions I did see her, she was on the lookout for her next victim. Just like her petite, shy mother Madonna whose hunting skills had been underestimated but proved she was a stealth hunter after having been observed making two kills in the space of 25 minutes, Princess had to demonstrate that she too, even smaller than her mother, had to prove her worth. But having witnessed the way she stalked the prey, I have no doubt that she is more than capable of doing her job. In fact, experience over our seven years of rewilding shows that tigresses are in fact better hunters! Helped sometimes by the stormy weather lately ,Princess & bros made kill after kill. A total of four blesbuck were hunted by them in a 10-day period, in this most challenging rewilding training camp.

Meanwhile, a fresh load of blesbuck were introduced into Tigers Roars and after a resting period for the blesbuck to settle down, Hulooo brothers were moved inside on Nov 18th. A Kill was made instantly during our monitoring, nevertheless inside the trees. What followed in next couple of days became an enigma for us for days to come, making us brood over as to what exactly happened. In the morning monitoring on Nov 19th, only five blesbuck were seen in the open area in Tigers Roars. This was highly unusual as Blesbuck are open land animals. However we took it that the other thirteen were temporarily taking shelter in the trees, disoriented from the storm the previous night. And they were sure to come out soon!

However, evening came and gone and another day came and gone. Still no sight of these missing blesbuck. Further, Hulooo brothers themselves were nowhere to be seen. They couldn’t possibly killed thirteen blesbuck in one night, could they? We started to wonder. This was a most unlikely scenario though. Last year in August, the brothers made a heavy toll on prey by hunting 11 blesbuck in a short period. But that was still in 10 days. Killing thirteen blesbuck in one night seemed just too distant a possibility!

Four days went by so we must solve the riddle. We drove into Tigers Roars on Monday Nov 22 to try our luck. When we eventually found Hulooo and JenB, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Their whiskers and nose were dirty and smeared with blood. If we didn’t know about the missing blesbok, we would have thought they had a bloody fight among themselves. What was more, their bellies were like balloons, particularly that of Hulooo who always has a weakness for food. It was clear that they had been feeding non-stop, not even bothering to lick themselves clean. After putting in their acknowledgement of us, Hulooo and JenB quickly disappeared into different directions again, as if afraid something could happen to their booties. We can hear the sound of bones getting cracked coming from inside the trees and river bed.

There was no doubt now that Hulooo brothers did make a killing-field out of Tigers Roars. But what happened to Coco?? Was he simply too fat to come out to greet us? Or was he injured during the hunting spree?? I couldn’t bear of the thoughts any longer so sent out a “search” party on Nov 24th to find Coco. Fortunately, he responded to the predator whistle, albeit feeling deceived. He refused to come out again next day the whistle was blown.

We continued to marvel at this most unusual hunting event, where three tigers wiped out three quarters of their entire month of food supply in two days. Could this because Hulooo was turning three on Nov 23rd and the brothers threw a hunting party for him to celebrate his coming of age??
Thing didn’t stop there. In the stormy night of Nov 25th, a further blesbuck lost its life.

Laohu Valley Reserve

It's cool down here

I hate heat

One by One
Caught in the Act
Why Hulooo so happy?

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