After the disaster of 1990 – 91, Ranthambhore went through a phase of recovery that took over a decade. According to the State government after the poaching of 1990 – 91 there were 16 tigers left in the park. However, the reality was that there were barely 10 tigers left. Some people who have been living here for a long time think that the figure of 10 was too optimistic.
I don’t really know how many tigers the poachers left but one mature female and one mature male were surely left alive because in the early 1993 this female gave birth to four female cubs. Most of the present day tigers of Ranthambhore are decedents of this tigress. This family lorded over the entire park and that was a very prominent indicator that there were not many tigers left in the park. Tigers are highly territorial and they actively defend their territories from invasion by other tigers. Tigresses with cubs almost never stray out of their territories with their cubs. So if one tigress was moving around a very large part of the park with her cubs, it indicated that no other tiger had their territory in this part.
Thankfully for Ranthambhore all the four cubs of this litter survived. By 1995 the cubs were fully grown up and had separated from their mother. These four cubs established their independent territories in Kachida, Bhakola, Lake area and Lahpur respectively. All these five tigers – the mother and her four cubs are now no more. The cub that established her territory in Bhakola (we used to call her “langdi” which means lame in hindi because she had a small deformity in one of her legs) never had a litter but the other three bred successfully and repopulated the park.
In 1998 Mr. G.V Reddy was posted as Deputy Field Director of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve and the core of the reserve – the Ranthambhore National Park was under his command. After Fateh Singh Rathore (from 1960s to 1980s), Ranthambhore finally got another boss who was honest, hard working and truly cared for the park. Reddy’s tenure here was the second golden period of Ranthambhore. Within a few months of taking charge he took total control. Wood cutting, cattle grazing and poaching was reduced to very low levels. With such a high degree of protection the park soon bounced back. Tiger numbers went up to over 40 by the time he left Ranthambhore in 2003.
Reddy’s immediate boss – Mr. R.K.Tyagi, (the Field Director of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve) who joined a year after Reddy and left a few months before Reddy, did a great job in Kela devi Sanctuary (a large and important part of the Reserve). He was an honest and fair man but for some reason Reddy and Tyagi never really got along – which was unfortunate because the two of them together could have done a truly marvelous job. One good thing about Tyagi was that he ensured that the same set of rules applied to everyone, which is rarity in India.
By the time Reddy left (he served as a Field Director for the last few months of his tenure) there were over 40 tigers in Ranthambhore (including all the cubs). But he did pay for the hard work that he did. His bosses in the state capital did not like the fact that he was getting famous and he had to face over 3 dozen departmental enquiries during the end of his stay in Ranthambhore.