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Old 19th March 2024, 23:24   #1
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Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

The incident I am narrating below is a once-in-a-lifetime incident that I cannot forget. Though it has been 21 years since it happened, it’s fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Myself, my elder brother, and sister-in-law were visiting Bandhavgarh National Park for tiger sightseeing. We did two rounds of safari. The first one was in the evening on the day we arrived, and the second one the following morning. The evening safari was fruitful. We spotted a tiger that came very close to our gypsy.

Setting out early from our resort the following day, our gypsy arrived promptly to ferry us to the national park gate. This time it was a different zone than last evening. After paying the fees, a guide was assigned to us. In a few minutes, we were inside, roaming around, carefully listening to ‘calls’. After some time, a gypsy informed us that a call is being heard at the charger point. We quickly headed towards there. It was a tri-junction. We were the last ones to reach, and there were about 10 gypsies already parked there. This was an era before the Supreme Court ruling of 2012 that ensured strict guidelines and protocols are followed. The gypsies came from the 3 directions and merged at the tri-junction, thus blocking each other. We were the last ones to reach, so our gypsy was the last in the line and parked next to another one that had French tourists in them.

The ‘calls’ were clearly audible, and we waited in anticipation for the tiger to emerge out of the forest. Everything else was quiet, people stopped chattering, cameras stopped flashing, all the tourists and guides intently listening to where the calls were originating from. Suddenly, we saw a tigress come out of the jungle behind our gypsy about 100ft away. Usually, the tigers cross the jungle road, sometimes wandering a little bit, and then disappear into the forest. Not this time. She didn’t cross but followed the mud road that directly approached us. Like everyone else, I started taking photos; suddenly the whole environment was energized with camera sound and a bit of chit-chat. Our gypsy and the next one with French tourists were directly on her path.

As she was about 50ft away, I spotted blood in her mouth & she looked visibly angry. Knowing that camera sound irritates tigers or maybe the sixth sense that something is wrong, I stopped taking pictures. When she was just 10ft away, she roared, charged & jumped on the gypsy next to ours!

What unfolded in the next few seconds left us shaken to the core. That gypsy was just a feet away from ours, and now it had a tigress inside it attacking the tourists while we were just 4-5 feet away! She attacked the first French tourists, the second one tried to hit her to distract her. She growled, took a step back to pounce on him. He was now lying on the floor of the gypsy between the 2 rear seats. She pounced over him, targeting his neck using her left paw. He crawled back just in time, and the paw landed on his shoulder; if her paw had landed on his neck, it could have been fatal.

Meanwhile, their guide got hold of a stick and started hitting the tigress on the head. The stick broke so he pulled her tail to distract her. She jumped off the gypsy and tried to pounce on the guide. The guide ran away possibly to pick something to hit her, but she didn’t give him enough time. Just a fraction of a second later, I saw the guide holding her with both his hands like a hand-to-hand fight. She growled and attacked his hands and then went inside the jungle.

The ordeal ended suddenly just as it had started suddenly. All the gypsies except the French tourists and ours had dispersed! Our gypsy driver had pulled back and parked on the side, and we were watching this incident from there. Though a bit shaken, I did capture 2 photos when the tigress was still inside the gypsy. They are blurry because my gypsy was in motion. We were extremely lucky that the tigress didn’t choose to attack our gypsy; the probability was 50 percent.

The tigress was still in the jungle & she could return anytime. Our gypsy driver took us out of the scene driving at a crazy speed of 70+ on the meandering jungle roads. We were getting tossed around while holding onto the rails to not fall off from the gypsy. After a few hundred meters, one of the tires got punctured. We had to get down from the gypsy all alone in the jungle while the tigress was still roaming around. Somehow, the attack didn’t inject that much fear in me as standing amid the silent jungle with a deadly tigress still at large. The next 5 minutes were the tensest moments of my life! Credit to the driver who replaced the wheel in just 5 minutes. Soon we were back to the safety of the resort. Though our return train was at night, we left the resort as quickly as we can and spent the rest of the day at the railway station.

I have never made these photos public. Google search for the incident doesn't return any images so I believe these photos are rare.

Tigress attacking the French tourist in blue clothes
Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-tigerattack11.jpg

Preparing to pounce again!
Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-tigerattack21.jpg

Approximate map of the scene and tigress path. Blue gypsy is ours and the red one had french tourists.
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The guide, who saved the French tourists, is Mr Rajvardhan Sharma owner of the famous ‘Nature Heritage Resort’. The tigress’s name was Mohini. She was hit by a vehicle the previous night. She succumbed to her injuries the same day.

The attack is captured in vivid detail in the below blog though some details are a bit different from what I remember.

https://www.tigerwalah.com/blog/tailing-the-tiger

Recent interviews of guides who recount that incident.





News coverage

https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/i...069-2003-04-13


After this incident, I didn't visit any forest for 8 years. In 2011, did a safari in Bandipur National Park where an elephant charged on our gypsy . Jungle safaris after that have been less eventful

Last edited by Axe77 : 21st March 2024 at 13:05. Reason: Some para spacing to improve readability.
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Old 20th March 2024, 19:15   #2
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Reminds me of the unfortunate incident at Bannerghatta national Park (30kms from Bangalore) during the 90s wherein a little girl sitting in the front passenger seat was grabbed & killed by a lion. Truly horrific!

Those days they let you take your private cars into the Safari here. Only after this incident did they stop it.

Last edited by Axe77 : 21st March 2024 at 13:06. Reason: Clean up edits.
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Old 20th March 2024, 21:17   #3
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

We forget that the place belongs to them and we are visitors - we may or may not be welcomed.

On a different note, I have stopped going to jeep safaris for the last 4 years, with due respect to my fellow nature lovers, these days safaris look more like picnics and some of us only visit a jungle to see the big cat.

I had some terrible experiences with people on safaris (like a kid throwing tantrums in the middle of jungle asking for potato chips, someone taking a call and shouting at the top of his voice describing his hotel and food).

These days I prefer going to reserves which are not tiger reserves/sanctuaries like Velavadar or Hesaraghatta. It's generally empty and one can be with nature, peacefully.
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Old 21st March 2024, 10:23   #4
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Whenever I look at these safaris, I fail to understand how foolish people can be. Sitting in a topless gypsy while trying to get a view of the most accomplished predator on the planet is the next level of idiocy. All the tiger needs is one jump, the people save it the time, the chase and everything that's otherwise needed in it's regular hunt. Can't these people just sit in caged vans and take a view? I mean come on, we visit these animals in their natural habitat and later try to analyze why it pounced on a human or tried to attack. To attack is it's basic nature. The people in all those videos are sitting ducks. I would never go on a safari in a gypsy, it has no protection. The guide is only a driver who knows the forest and not the animals. The govt. should share guidelines on the type of vehicles that should be allowed in a safari. There should be strict guidelines for viewing purpose, these vehicles are the only reason why there are so many attacks.

Last edited by Raghu M : 21st March 2024 at 10:26.
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Old 21st March 2024, 10:47   #5
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Quite the story, thanks for sharing. I have never understood why Indians safari are conducted in open cars?

I have been on several safaris in Africa, but always in a closed car. Windows open, no AC. But at least they all had a roof!

Mind you we were never very lucky with our tiger safaris in India. We never came across a tiger except once.

We only came across a tiger once. We were sailing in an open boat in the Sundarbans. A tiger showed up on shore, jumped in the water and swam across our bow to the other side, climbed ashore and disappeared.

Very impressive and exiting, but afterwards we realised how vulnerable you are.

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Old 21st March 2024, 11:21   #6
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

That surely must have rattled everyone to their core.

I hail from the Nilgiris, where we've been witnessing a sudden surge in Tiger and Leopard sightings. Tigers have even begun to roam in groups nowadays. A couple of years back, as my daughter and I were walking towards the gate of our home, we heard a strange growl coming from the plantation. Initially, I brushed it off, assuming it might be one of the wild dogs, deer, or perhaps even the Nilgiri Thar. However, as we neared the gates, the call grew wilder, more aggressive, and louder. Perhaps driven by paternal instinct, I swiftly picked up my daughter and hurried home. Some dismissed my reaction as mere over-protectiveness, but later that evening, a formidable tigress was captured by forest officials roughly 12 kilometers away.


Quote:
Originally Posted by amit1agrawal View Post

It was a tri-junction. We were the last ones to reach, and there were about 10 gypsies already parked there. This was an era before the Supreme Court ruling of 2012 that ensured strict guidelines and protocols are followed. The gypsies came from the 3 directions and merged at the tri-junction, thus blocking each other. We were the last ones to reach, so our gypsy was the last in the line and parked next to another one that had French tourists in them.
This is the common behavior among tourists in Mudumalai, Bandipur, and the Muthanga ranges. They often park their vehicles suddenly upon spotting an animal, showing little regard for the safety of other road users. Elephants, in particular, despise loud noises. There have been countless instances where elephants react by charging, leaving you trapped amidst vehicles scattered across the road.

Last edited by jeeva : 21st March 2024 at 11:24.
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Old 21st March 2024, 11:32   #7
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Tiger doing tiger things. Must have been fearful and awe inspiring to witness something like this up close. Not often we get reminded of just fragile and weak we are.

Was reminded of this video:


Open top safari rides will not find me sitting in.
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Old 21st March 2024, 11:48   #8
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Thanks for sharing your traumatic experience. I've never seen a wild tiger on a safari before. When we went on a similar safari at Wayanad, they were using open jeeps like one you described. The guides were so reassuring, we were not worried about tiger attacking us. If I am to go on a Safari again, I'll only go in a closed vehicle like this one 👇

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Old 21st March 2024, 11:53   #9
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

I heard Tigers, Lions or any animal in the jungles for that matter, looks at the safari vehicle , including its occupants as a whole unit (/or like a large animal). Which is why they don't attack it? Wonder what's changed here? Is it the excessive body movements by the occupants in the gypsy and their voices?

Unlike lions, tigers hunt alone. They even hunt the herd of water buffalos alone. You can only imagine it's skills when it comes to attacking and pouncing.

Nonetheless , there should be a protective cage around a safari vehicle. With the kind of cameras these days, the cage will not make any difference for a perfect picture.

Last edited by suhaas307 : 22nd March 2024 at 15:20. Reason: Spacing for readability
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Old 21st March 2024, 12:15   #10
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Quote:
Originally Posted by Earthroamer View Post
I heard Tigers, Lions or any animal in the jungles for that matter, looks at the safari vehicle , including its occupants as a whole unit (/or like a large animal). Which is why they don't attack it?
What i have heard about as well. But my paranoid android self would be pretty concerned sitting exposed like that in a jungle safari.
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Old 21st March 2024, 12:17   #11
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

If I can recollect correctly, she was jhurjhura female of Tala zone, Bandhavgarh. She was hit by a vehicle (infamous incident or illegal entry by powerful person inside the park during night hours) and was left to die. Next morning she charged at vehicles and after few moments died because of internal injuries.

Just imagine her situation, she was a nursing tigress, had cubs, was hit by similar type of vehicle previous night and next morning she finds all those vehicles again while she was in very bad situation.
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Old 21st March 2024, 12:24   #12
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Wow, thanks for sharing. Had the photos not been there, I wouldn't have believed you, to be honest. I've been doing these safaris for a long time and have never come across or heard of something even remotely close. Most tigers nowadays are quite lenient and come near your vehicle without appearing threatening even for a moment, used to as they are, to safari vehicles, while those that prefer to keep their distance are largely left alone. This definitely is a gamechanger as far as tiger behaviour is concerned. Obviously the fact that it was hit and injured by another vehicle hit may have played a role in its aggressive behaviour but fact is one cannot predict how a wild animal would behave. While this incident would probably be a one in a million event, safari goers still need to be cautious.
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Old 21st March 2024, 12:31   #13
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raghu M View Post
Whenever I look at these safaris, I fail to understand how foolish people can be. Sitting in a topless gypsy while trying to get a view of the most accomplished predator on the planet is the next level of idiocy.
I'd like to ask you to refrain from calling people idiots for doing something you might be too afraid to do and trying to use this unfortunate incident as evidence supporting your views.

For those who truly love nature and wildlife, safaris through open jeeps in the dense forests spotting these beautiful animals is a thrill unlike no other. Tigers are apex predators, yet they never attack any jeep because they view the whole jeep as one big unit. This is the reason people are strictly forbidden from getting out of the jeep, as in that case, you are very likely a target.

This did not happen because the jeep was open, rather it was that jeep blocking the path of the tigress what made her aggressive towards it. As OP said, their jeeps were side by side, restricting the path of the tigress. BAD move.

In the past, phones were allowed inside and the drivers would do exactly what was done here, call each other and crowd the tiger , making it feel cornered and scared. Now the jeeps are assigned their own specific paths they can roam and phones are banned for avoiding exactly what has happened here.

No one is allowed to block the path of the tigers walking the roads now, and always have to make way for it if one appears. I have done dozens of safaris, and tigers have walked half a foot beside me, and i have never once felt threatened, because only a certain percentage of the forest is open for safari's to protect the peace of the animals, and the tigers in these areas have gotten very used to safari jeeps. They barely acknowledge their existence with a sly glance and walk by unbothered. Typical cat behavior Iím a guy afraid of bugs flying in my face, but not an ounce of fear comes in me when a tiger walks by me staring me in my eyes, that should give you a general idea of just how safe open jeeps are

While you think we are sitting ducks in open jeeps, we stumble upon villagers walking through the core area alone, with nothing on them but a walking stick. Unless it's a tiger that's desperate for food and has developed a taste for humans, they won't attack you unprovoked. If you ever see one, NEVER run. Then there's no hope for you.

The owner of a small hotel that i stay at while visiting Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve once told me about the time he was setting up camera traps in the forest for the annual tiger census, and a tigress was was right behind them, watching silently! They were out of their car, and he recounts standing there motionless with two other people for 40 minutes, while the tigress stared them down. She proceeded to leave just as quietly as she had arrived.

It is certainly very important though to be respectful and mindful of your surroundings, to not wear brightly coloured clothes, a lot of perfume, and to be as quiet as possible.

A caged jeep would just take every ounce of excitement out of this experience, itíd be like seeing animals in the zoo, which should be banned, period. What i wish the forest department would do, is not put cages on the jeeps, but to replace them with a new fleet of electric jeeps! Silence is key in the forest to avoid disturbing the animals, and theres no worse sound than a loud rattly diesel engine starting up in the still silence of the jungle. No noise, No pollution, itís a no brainer! Iím pretty sure this would be the scenario a decade down the line.

Attaching some photos iíve taken of those beautiful big cats over the years
Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-26086compressed.jpeg

Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-26083compressed.jpeg

Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-26111compressed.jpeg

Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-26084compressed.jpeg

Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park-26085compressed.jpeg
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Old 21st March 2024, 12:32   #14
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

Quote:
Originally Posted by amit1agrawal View Post
The incident I am narrating below is a once-in-a-lifetime incident that I cannot forget.
This is scary and some incredibly rare photos. Thank you for sharing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AniChaudhuri View Post
...but fact is one cannot predict how a wild animal would behave.
Yep, on safaris, especially in places like Bandhavgarh where the tigers are used to human intrusion, it's easy to forget just how fast and powerful these apex predators are. I've visited a lot of reserves and have seen tigers quite a few times, sometimes even cubs for a long view. But the 'best' tiger sighting I got was a second or two on a dark, rainy evening, returning to our lodge in Jim Corbett. A tiger just ran/jumped across our Gypsy. No indication before, a flash, stripes in the headlights, and it was gone, no indication after. The long views and multiple photographs of tigers lazing around became like a zoo viewing after that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scorched_earth View Post
On a different note, I have stopped going to jeep safaris for the last 4 years, with due respect to my fellow nature lovers, these days safaris look more like picnics and some of us only visit a jungle to see the big cat.
Same here, I stopped going a long time ago. I realized that much that is being touted as tiger conservation, especially by the jungle resort 'tiger celebrity' owners is not conservation. And the bad behavior on safaris is very sad. Far better to just leave them alone.
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Old 21st March 2024, 13:06   #15
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Re: Close Encounter: Surviving a Tigress Attack in Bandhavgarh National Park

OP, Thanks for posting this. This confirms my apprehensions about these kind of safaris.
Well, this is the exact fear factor due to which I have always stayed away from open jeep safaris and will continue to do so.
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