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JAYA - Diwali - and looking forward to 'Me time'

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Diwali, the recent Hindu festival of light, is not a peaceful time for the wild tigers of Bandhavgarh.

Many villages bordering the park celebrate the five day festival with noisy firecrackers and fireworks, light, loud music and late night dancing. The result is that the park’s wildlife heads for the hills or seeks out some quiet secluded spots far from the bangs and clashes of the nightly festivities.

For Jaya and her brood of four kids, it is still an endless quest for food to satisfy four ever hungry stomachs. Jaya must provide a large meal, an adult deer for instance - every third day to satiate their ravenous appetites and Johnno, the large male is now stealing the lion’s share of every meal along with his bigger sister Crumbie. Both the little girls, Murphy and Trya will have to start feeding themselves if they want to grow big and strong like their siblings.

For the three young tigresses, independence is fast approaching, now they are nearly twenty months old, but their only brother Johnno, like most lazy son’s, will probably tag on his mother’s apron strings for some sometime yet, that way ensuring an easier life. For the moment Jaya still supplies the bulk of the feasts (her cubs are still practicing their hunting skills and often spoil good ambushes with impatience), but soon her thoughts will turn once again to a second litter.

Over the last week her family have been moving from one restaurant to another sampling mum’s choices of cuisine; one day a spotted deer, the next a large sambar deer (like a Red deer), a few days ago a delicious wild boar that she had cleverly ambushed, and yesterday a cow, that entered her domain. Jaya has been finding her meals in some of the more hidden areas of the park around Kanoji or Kali Pani, a small waterhole as well as the hillside ridge that runs down to Dudra meadow. There is plenty of water here and the day time temperatures are starting to dip as winter fast approaches. Here her kingdom is full of rocky hills providing both heat, warmed by the sun and protection from the racket of the Diwali festival in the surrounding landscape.