NAGPUR: A gripping nail-biting fight for survival between a sloth bear sow and a tiger was witnessed in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), in which the female bear fended off the attack and emerged the unlikely winner.
The 15-minute jungle fight between seven-year-old tiger Matkasur and his probable prey — the female sloth bear who was protecting her young cub — was captured on videotape by Akshay Kumar, Chief Naturalist with the Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge here.
Kumar’s video has gone viral on social media, drawing reactions from thousands of viewers and nature lovers alike.
“I was on a regular safari on February 28 afternoon with a Canadian woman tourist who wanted to see a wild tiger. We were tracking Matkasur, who we found cooling himself in a small waterhole ‘Jamunbodi’ in the deep forest,” Kumar told IANS.
Just then, a thirsty bear sow and her hub arrived at the water body, which was apparently resented to by the resting tiger.
“The irritated tiger let out a warning roar, jumped out of the pond and attacked the ‘trespasser’ duo. Taken aback for a few seconds, the sloth bear — in order to protect her cub — valiantly took on the tiger and viciously fought back,” Kumar said.
While an average female sloth bear weighs between 80-95 kg, an adult tiger can weight upwards of 200 kg, up to 220 kg.
Almost double the size of his likely prey, Matkasur pinned down the female bear.
At one point, it appeared the game was over for the female bear, who was struggling to get herself freed from the tiger’s jaws. In a sudden twist, the tenacious bear turned the tables on the tiger and prised herself free from his deathly grip.
For the next few minutes, it was a chilling scene of fierce roars, growls and clawing from two adversaries, with both bloodied and tired by a gruelling encounter.
“Towards the end, the sloth bear remarkably regained her strength and gave it back to the tiger, growling menacingly, lunging at him and trying to push him back, warding off his attack,” Kumar said.
Surprisingly, the cub disappeared into the jungle for safety all this while as his mother waged the battle against the king of the jungle.
Finally, the weary tiger gave up the fight, casting wary glances at the bear, who ran back and forth to chase him off, and finally went back — panting and obviously hungry — to the safety of the waterhole.
Kumar said that normally, sloth bear — as their name suggests — are slow creatures, can’t run very fast and often prove to be easy prey for the big cats lurking in the forests.
Though such fights may be common in the animal kingdom, he said it is the first time that a bloody and fierce encounter between an aggressive tiger and an elusive sloth bear was actually recorded, making it rare, Kumar added.
He said though they form part of a tiger’s diet, sloth bear are generally avoided by big cats since their sharp claws — measuring between 60-90 cm — can seriously injure a tiger.