During the winter of 2012, GoingWild had arranged a trip to Tadoba Andheri Tiger Reserve. We had five safaris starting from 29th December (Day1: 2 Safaris; Day2: 2 safaris; Day3: 1 Safari) till 31st December.
Tour participants were very much disappointed since in the first four safaris were dry. We lost our hope and played card games at our resort all over the night before the fifth and last safari. Since we didn't had a sleep in the previous night, I myself felt sleepy in the jeep safari of 31st December. All on a sudden, in the very morning of 31st December, that is in the last safari, the penultimate moment came, at around 7:30AM, for the first time when we saw it.
I was in the back row of the gypsy along with one tour participant from Australia. Suddenly, Dashrath, our guide uttered loudly "TIGER" and almost at the same time another car stopped in front of our gypsy by 50meters distance. When we stopped our vehicle, we saw a huge male tiger sitting next to gypsy track beneath bamboo thickets along with a pangolin. The Pangolin was alive and the huge male was trying to uncurl the pangolin. Actually the tiger was kittenish and was playing with the pangolin and sometimes tried to uncurl it. Since the under parts of the pangolin don't have scales, that might be the reason why the tiger was trying to uncurl and kill the pangolin. I was equipped with 400mm f5.6 telephoto lens. The distance of our gypsy from the tiger was as much as 15-20 feet. It was so close to our gypsy that I hardly managed to take the tiger with the pangolin in the same frame. The sighting was for 8-10minutes. There after the huge male walked in to the forest carrying the live pangolin in its mouth. Since it is an unethical practice to get down from the vehicle inside a forest, we followed the guidelines and didn't get down from the vehicle to get the picture of tiger and the pangolin hanging in its mouth.
The curse of the first four safari was over. All credit goes to the guide Dashrath, who spotted the tiger. At that moment all of us were very much happy and had a fair jungle experience.
Dashrath, looked perplexed while the sighting was going on. He is around 50-55, a veteran one amongst the Guides of TATR. He told us that, 8-10 years before he saw a pangolin once in his entire life. Since pangolins are nocturnal they are hardly seen during the day time. Tiger with deer, monkey or wild boar are not rare event; but even a veteran like Dasharath felt it as a rare event, since he has never seen such an event before.
Later, when the safari was over Dasharath talked with the other guides and sent the message to the forest officials regarding this event. All of them were quiet happy to hear the news, since it was the first documentation for Tiger-Pangolin ever from TATR.
"I have never seen a pangolin in the wild,as anteaters are rare to find. Tigers eating them is even rarer to record" - Valmik Thapar