The road leading to the Ranthambore national park main gate is a smooth 2-laned road, which must be part of some state or national highway. And as such, it sees a lot of traffic of the usual kind: trucks, state buses, tourist taxis, private cars etc etc. In short, a typical Indian highway. Now why am I harping on the highway? Because the highway is the setting of the first anecdote about T24 told to me by the hotel manager.
Well, we were chatting with our hotel manager about tigers in Ranthambore when he said: “Arre aap thode se unlucky hain… just a few days back, T24 was sitting on the highway and enjoying his kill. Since the killed animal was a sambar, he finished it partially and left the carcass to come back the next day. Forest officials actually had to take the carcass and throw it away back inside the jungle.”
Imagine a tiger so bold to eat his kill in the midst of a busy highway. That’s T24 for you and apparently he has been spotted on the highway more than once. During our 3-day stay, we heard that a biker saw the tiger on the road, got frightened, lost control and crashed against another vehicle and had to get stitches in his face near the eyelids. Well, on balance, he was actually lucky to get away with only a few stitches given that T24 has, allegedly, killed at least 3 people already and for sure, terrified everyone in the jungle and nearby.
The story goes that around 18 months to two years ago, T24 had some problem in his legs; most likely, a splinter of wood that was causing him pain. So, the forest officials took him away to remove the splinter and treat the animal. This took about 1-2 days and during this period, the story goes, the tiger had ample time to be around humans so his fear of humans completely went away. And since then, he has been responsible for creating the fear of god in man.
From the main gates of the NP, there is a public road that goes till the Ranthambore fort and many people use it regularly to offer prayers to the famous Ganesh mandir inside the fort. This road also squarely falls within tiger territory and on many evenings, tigers can be spotted. Now this road comes under the territory of T24 and another female tiger as well. A male will have a larger territory overlapping a few female tigers.
So, another great anecdote of this tiger was heard on the last day of the Ganesh festival. Since this is a famous temple, on the last day, there was a large turnout of people walking towards the temple. The number of visitors that day was from 1 lakh to 4 lakhs depending on whom you ask. On that day, T24 decided it wanted to park itself bang in the middle of the road and not budge. And so it did. Thousands of people were terrified to move forward seeing the tiger. Supposedly, the forest rangers had to bunch up groups of 25 people and move them slowly past the tiger. And T24 sat there for hours supposedly. If really true, then T24 probably must be the most seen tiger in a single day, ever! Though tigers casually pass through the middle of jeeps without any fear, this story, even if partially true, is extraordinary. With so many people and so much commotion, every animal would just duck into the forest cover. But not T24, apparently.
The one positive aspect of this fearsome tiger is supposedly that after a long time, poachers are frightened of going into the jungle fearing a tiger. Our hotel manager told me that T24 is doing the work of a 100 forest guards. Exaggeration? Sure but you get the general idea.
Coming back to the three/four killings, clearly one of the killing was the handiwork T24. This has been reported widely in the newspapers. For the other two, however, there are differing versions. While villagers claim it is the handiwork of T24, the forest officials are not sure. Many people also claim that numerous sadhus on their way to the temple have been missing with only their spectacles and chappals found. I hope this is just a village rumour and not true. If true, then the M-question looms large on T24. If proved a man-eater, it may have to be shunted out to a cage in some ramshackle zoo. That would really sad for this magnificent beast. So let’s hope that the killings were more territorial and circumstantial rather than targeted human killing and eating.
This is one story that you don’t want to receive updates on. If you don’t hear about T24 on this blog or anywhere else for a few more months, then the future of T24 could be safe in the Ranthambore national park where it can continue to frighten everyone!
Ps: If you have any stories or updates on T24, please do share. Any interesting photos are also welcome. Due credit will be given to the original source