Heart-stopping moment tiger charges at tourists during Indian safari

A tiger appeared to charge at a group of travellers on a wildlife safari in Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve in northern Uttarakhand state recently, the local media reported on Thursday.

A video of the incident, captured by a guest on the safari, was shared by Susanta Nanda, an Indian Forest Service official on Twitter.

In the video, that many called “harrowing”, the tiger can be seen attempting to charge at the jeep as the safari guide tries to shout and scare it away.

Big cat trackers and wildlife observers, however, say that the tiger was perhaps too stunned to see the guests at such close proximity and was trying to scare them away by “mock charging” at the jeep.

Harsha Narasimhamurthy, a professional wildlife photographer who specialises in big cat photography told The Independent: “In this case, the tiger was maybe trying to cross the road and when these guys came too close, it was a sudden reaction of the tiger.”

He said it was “always better” to give tigers who are aggressive, “space”.

“Some individuals have a bad temperament and some are pretty aggressive, so understanding their behaviour, and knowing them pretty well can help.”

Mr Narasimhamurthy added that some tigers in the national parks of India are “pretty comfortable with the jeeps even at close proximity” because they are used to them.

Camilla Malvestiti, a wildlife photographer in India and a tiger safari mentor, said the tiger was trying to “mock charge”. She said: “This is what we call a mock charge. It’s a warning given by the tiger not to come closer. Tigers might do that when they feel someone or some animal has invaded their space.”

She says it’s not “real” aggression.

But she is quick to add that “I am not aware of the back story of this particular episode and why the tigress got irritated by the safari vehicles. Some tigers are more irascible than others, it depends on their personality as well”.

In the history of wildlife parks, there have been quite a few tigers that got the nickname “Charger” because of their tendency to mock-charge at vehicles, Ms Malvestiti added.

On Twitter, where the video was shared by many, several blamed the tourists. Mr Nanda, who shared the original footage, tweeted: “Striped monk gets irritated. What will you do if at every designated hour people crash into your house as their matter of right?”

Other commentators demanded more restrictions on tourism inside tiger reserves. One tweeted: “This is a clear indication that tourism in tiger reserves should be restricted to a small number of people and be done in enclosed vehicles only.”

Another observer wrote: “They don’t attack like this unless provoked. These tourists definitely shouted or gestured at the tiger to get this reaction” adding that such people “should never be allowed at these places”.

But Aahana Patole, entrepreneur and founder of The Sacred Saka, an eco-tourism agency for wildlife enthusiasts believed the problem is, “the crowd isn’t given instructions” and that “there are no rules or fines for the ones who make unnecessary noise” on safaris.

“Some tigers don’t care, usually cubs and tigers that aren’t used to crowds as such they get irritated [by the jeeps and tourists]. Tourism isn’t bad, the crowd travelling there should have basic etiquette,” she said.

“The main thing is that they should understand that jungles are not zoos. If strict fines are imposed, these people would never make a single noise.”

Mr Narasimhamurthy, however, said that the guide in the video “did a really good job by trying to shout and scare it off”. He added: “He tried his best to ensure that the tiger didn’t charge further, to break the confidence of the tiger in this case.”

The guests in the jeep received some flak though. Ms Patole said: “In this case, the guides and drivers know exactly what to do when the tiger is attacking or scared. Guest interfering on an occurrence like this clouds their way of thinking as well.”

Prime minister Narendra Modi released the new tiger census data in the country earlier this month. The population of tigers in India has increased from 2,967 in 2018 to 3,167 in 2022 --- which is more than 75 per cent of the global tiger population.