Thursday, 2 April 2009

Cathay- the Mother & Hunter

Back at Laohu Valley, everything is so green - a green that I have never seen before here. The rain came at the right time this year and the grass has grown unususally tall. With the blue sky and light white cloud, that lyrics keep coming back to me: "the Sky is high high, the wilderness is vast vast. Where the wind blows the grass lower itself to reveal the wild antelopes".

I am quite certain that our South China Tiger Cathay is pregnant again. Before we start training her to use the breeding center for her birth again, I would like her to have some time roaming free and hunt if she can. She has not been in the big 42 hectare hunting camp for over a year, and I was worried she might loose her hunting skills.

With all the new smells and long grass in the big camp, Cathay enjoyed it-she smelled, flehmened, rolled. However, she subsequently just blindly trailed one of our vehecles, following TigerWoods. There were 20 blesbok (12 adults and 8 calves) inside this big camp but she did not see them. After walking half a kilometer, just when I started to get worried, Cathay raised her head, and saw the antelopes in the distance.

For the next hour or or before the sun set, she started following and stalking the game. It was very hot and she panted heavily, walking and trotting from one side of the camp to the other, while TigerWoods still lazily followed one of our vehicles. I was not sure if Cathay would catch any game due to lack of exercise. However, there she was, crouched low in the long grass tailing three blesbok, two adults and one young.

She moved slowly closer to the antelop, and I prayed for her. She dashed out, but a bit too early this time. The Antelop ran away. She dissappeared into the distance, her golden stripes blending completely in with the golden and green grass.

Just when I was wondering where she was, she was spotted in the far side of the camp. It is very interesting to note that when two tigers are hunting, the tigers even cross each others paths but they never stay together. I always see them at different side of the camp. I don't know if this is intentionally so or just accidental.

By this time, TigerWoods had waken up and also joined the hunt. He was seen also in the far distance but at a different corner. The tigers changed positions at one point and started pushing the game towards west. The sun was setting, and I decided to leave the tigers inside the big camp. I was certain they would make a kill to feed themselves overnight, given the way Cathay hunted.

Next morning, Feb 2nd, one adult antelope was reported missing. The tigers were nowhere to be seen-they must have been on their kill. In the afternoon, I first spotted TigerWoods in the riverine area. After a while, Cathay emerged, and rubbed heads with TigerWoods, but without a single tiny hint of the human existence nearby. TigerWoods left to go near the river to feed, while Cathay lied down lazily in the long grass, bearly visible, even thoguh she was only about 5 meters away from me.

We soon confirmed, a second and young blesbok was also caught, probably that morning, lying dead near where the tigers were.

Thumbs up for Cathay -the mother and the hunter!

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