One of the most important teachers I had regarding tiger behavor was an amazing video clip of an attack by a Bengal tigress in northeast India's Kaziranga National Park. In this clip, wardens on elephants can be seen trying to shoot the tigress with a tranquilizer gun until, finally, she gets fed up. What is significant about the tigress's response to this harassment is her mode of attack: when a cat is hunting for food, it typically attacks from behind, using the element of surprise. But when a tiger is attacking an adversary — driving off a competitor or fighting an enemy — it usually approaches head-on, as this tigress does (and as The Tiger
did). One of many things that really impressed me about this video was how the tigress emerges from the long grass like a shark swimming up out of the depths — and then erupts — flying over the top of the elephant — jumping "as high as it needs to."
You can watch it here.
By stopping the motion of the video as incrementally as I could, I was able to scrutinize every stage of her amazing leap and impact, paying particular attention to the interplay of paws, jaws, and tail. Then I tried to assemble everything I'd read, heard, and seen (see yesterday's blog entry) into word-pictures that would be clear to people who'd never seen or thought much about attacking tigers. The analogy I came up with to describe how a tiger organizes itself into such a deadly weapon was a basketball team (see p. 27 in the book).
In fact, there is a postscript to this video that I found even more amazing than the attack itself. You can read it here.
I was very moved by the female elephant's response to the tigress — her clear intention to subdue the cat, but not to kill or injure her. I couldn't help wondering if the elephant's response would have been different had she and/or the tigress been male. It has also inspired me to read The Jungle Book again with fresh eyes.