[VIDEO] Maternal instinct: sloth bear vs tiger

  • A fierce battle between a mother bear and a tiger coming for her cub has taken the internet by storm.
  • The footage was captured by the chief naturalist at a resort close to Tadoba National Park in Maharashtra.
  • The video starts with the tiger chasing off a sloth bear that was headed with her cub toward a watering hole.

A dusty battle between a mother bear and a hungry tiger aiming for her cub was captured by Akshay Kumar, chief naturalist at the Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge near Tadoba National Park.

During an afternoon safari last week (on 28 February 2018), Kumar spotted Matkasur, a well-known dominant male tiger, chasing off a sloth bear that was headed toward a water hole with her cub. The bear then charges the tiger, and the fight ensues.

“The tiger attacked the sloth bear but she kept charging in order to protect her cub,” Kumar told NDTV. “It went on for 15 minutes. The tiger was roaring. It was a severe fight. It was the bear’s motherly instinct to protect her cub.”

Bear’s fur saved the neck

Both animals were injured in the encounter. Kumar said the bear’s thick fur saved her from a worse outcome.

“The tiger is twice the weight of the bear and powerful. The big cat kills its prey by grabbing it by the neck, severing the spine and killing it quickly or by suffocating the windpipe. But the bears are covered in a shaggy heavy black coat. The hair of its coat is long and measures from 8 cm to 20 cm. It is longer on the neck and shoulders. Their thick coat helps protect the bear from the canines (5.5 – 6.5 cms) of the tiger,” said Prakash Chandra Mardaraj, human bear conflict & sloth bear expert and a member of the IUCN/SSC-Bear Specialist Group.

“From my observation of sloth bears, I have seen sloth bears are very active and energetic whereas tiger has power but they are exhausted quickly and that too in the afternoon,” said Mardaraj.

Screen capture of footage shot by Akshay Kumar of the battle between a male tiger and a mother sloth bear over access to a water hole in Maharashtra’s Tadoba National Park. Via @the_bamboo_forest on Instagram.

“This is not too common. Sloth bears are rather shy animals, they mostly avoid conflict,” he added. “Mostly the sloth bears are fringe dwellers as open forests are abundant with insects and termites and tiger sticks to the core habitat so there are least chances of overlap in their territory.”

Sanjay Gubbi, a scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, agrees. “Such incidences may have happened several times in the past in the wild, but very rarely one gets to document such natural history behaviour,” he said. “Tigers are known to occasionally feed on sloth bears hence the large male may have tried its luck to get a good meal.”

Screen capture from video shot by Akshay Kumar.

“The incident shows how efficient and daring sloth bears act when it comes to defending themselves and their cubs. It also highlights that even a resident, dominant tiger cannot take an efficiently built (claws, hide, jaws, canines, etc) omnivore which is not even a competitor to the tiger for food like leopard and dholes,” added Gubbi.

Motherly instinct

“Parental care among sloth bears is very significant. Sloth bear cubs are born in secure dens where the mother bears seclude themselves for several weeks to nurse and protect the newborns. Cubs stay with their mother for up to two-and-half years and even ride piggyback for several months while she forages for food,” said Mardaraj.

Mother sloth bear charging a male tiger in Tadoba National Park. Photo by Akshay Kumar, the chief naturalist at Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge. Via @the_bamboo_forest on Instagram.
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