By Shatabdi Chakrabarti

A MALE tiger is captured being a rare hands-on dad by babysitting his cubs while the mother hunts

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Photographer Amit Kilam visited the Bandhavgarh National Park in India

Wildlife photographer Amit Kilam spent a few days May 2016 following a family of tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, in the Central Part of India.

He said: “Tigers love water and during summer time can be often found near water holes. 

"The first day of the safari turned out to be quite eventful as I tracked three sub adult cubs in a part of the forest called Tala. One of the cubs climbed up a tree and gave all the photographers some great shots. It almost felt like the tiger was posing for the shutterbugs around."

Amit had heard that there was an unusual set up within a tiger family

However, what he wanted to capture was a male tiger with his young cubs.

Amit said: “I had been hearing about this occurrence of a ‘tiger family,’ complete with a dad, mum and three young cubs. 

"In the wild, it is not very often that a male tiger hangs around after mating. Normally, male and female tigers stay close to each other during the time of mating which can be around 3-4 months.

It is rare for male tigers to help rear the young

"The male tigers always have larger territories and so they move on to patrol their areas. A tigress generally takes care of the cubs all by herself.”  

There was news in the wildlife fraternity about this tiger family which spiked Amit’s interest.

A young cub hides in the forest

He said: “On reaching the park, I spoke to my guide and he informed me that this couple had been displaying a tremendous amount of love for each other. The male apparently stayed around even after the mating was over and now that the cubs were born, he actually became a hands on dad!

“It was really hot, so our best bet was to start with the watering holes. And as luck would have it, we reached this one spot and found the cubs playing in the water."

Whilst dad was watching the young, mum was out hunting

The three cubs, about 4-5 months old, were without supervision and the guide suggested that one of the parents should be around, keeping an eye, while the other must have gone to hunt.

Amit said: “That was the pattern that had been observed in this family. And the surprising thing was, that the father would be literally babysitting the cubs while the mother was out hunting. 

The father tiger watched as his cubs played in the water

“Once I reached the water hole, I realised that the cubs had crossed over to the other side of the road and were sitting inside the bushes. That got me thinking that maybe the father was also on this side of the track and had been watching me the whole time I was photographing his cubs earlier!”

Soon after, Amit spotted one of the cubs in the bamboo groves next to the tracks.

He said: “I had just managed to get a clear view of this cub when I saw the father get up."

Sometimes its very difficult to spot a tiger in the bushes. Even if you know for sure that there is a tiger there, you see it only when it moves.

Amit said: "The surprising thing was, that the father would be literally babysitting the cubs while the mother was out hunting"

"The father lazily crossed the road and walked towards the water hole. One by one, the cubs also followed.

"After having a drink, all four of them dozed off under a tree. It was amazing to see the love and affection that this huge male tiger has for his cubs. And I was witness to an amazing wildlife behaviour.”