Quirky communication style of tigers..

During my recent visit to Tadoba the dominant male of Tadoba range, Matkasur was scrapping the grass with his hind legs. My guests assumed it was nature’s call. It wasn’t so. He was doing what tigers do as part of regular quirky behaviour. He was scenting his presence. Tigers communicate their presence in different manners.

  1. Sound – Some example Roaring and purring
  2. Body language- Flattened ears, grin, raised shoulders, crouching,use of false eyes
  3. Smell- Chemical signals

I have observed these closely and what intrigues me the most is the use of false ears and chemical communication based on smell. The chemical code contains the details of tiger in form of: Age, gender, sexual maturity and ovulation cycle and are used for communicating territorial limits and availability for mating. Tiger scent mark their presence using different methods mentioned below:

Hugging and clawing.
Classic method is to leave scent marking on a tree. Any other tiger crossing this place can smell it and be aware of other striped cat’s territory. Hugging is also an intimidation style as seen above. Older (bigger) the tiger higher is clawing. Clawing implies embossing nail marks on barks of tree.
Spraying
Tiger will spray urine on trees as they patrol territory making their presence felt to every tiger crossing it’s territory.
Ground rolling
Tigers will over grass/vegetation/roughage to mark their presence. This is commonly seen in mating pairs. Where the seducer (male/female) will leave scent on ground and pursuer (male/female) will roll over to indicate his/her availability to mate.
Rubbing
Similar to tree hugging here tigers smell and leave scent for other tigers. They will rub their face on leaves/bushes to leave scent message for other tigers.
Scrapping
Most confusing posture. Close to position of attending nature call, here the difference is after spraying urine tigers will scrape the ground with hind legs.
Flehmen response
Classic behaviour often confused with aggression (see image below). Here the tiger curls back upper lips exposing front teeth, inhales scent and holds position for sometime. Generally neck could be stretched along with high head. Tiger’s use Jacobson organ in this posture. It helps tiger receives chemical message from other tigers.
Compared to Flehmen response, this is an aggressive stance. It shows displeasure. Look at raised shoulder, exposed canines and flattened ears!
False eyes
Every tiger has one white spot behind each ear. When you look from behind they look like eyes, hence known as false eyes. It’s role in communication is still under intensive study. But it is strongly believed that the mother uses the movement of ears (false ears) to communicate with cubs in wild.

The life in wild is very unique and full of mysteries waiting to be discovered. Everyday in wild is a new journey and thrill of seeing some new behaviour is very addictive. If you wish to discover and see thrill of tiger communicating you must spend sometime with spirits of wild. I’m sure they will be more than happy to welcome you in their world, as they always welcome me!

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