Hustler ( noun; Informal; American slang)  – a person adept at using force to deal with things to go his/her way.
Well, I use this term for this particular male tiger from Rukhad buffer of Pench.  This hustler was born to famous tigress from core zone of Pench. Along with his siblings, he managed to reach sub-adult stage. As with any other male tiger of his age, he left his mother to create his own turf. He went missing for sometime keeping away from other tigers, moving pillar to post, gathering experience and strength. He was finally seen in Rukhad buffer area of Pench Tiger reserve during monsoon’s of 2021. This is that time of the year when core area of park is closed but buffer area is open for tourism.
Rukhad is a buffer on edge of Pench national park. Buffers play a important role as holding pond of tigers and corridors for their movements. It helps population of tigers to disperse to other forested areas. In case of Pench it is connected to other tiger reserves like Kanha, Satpura & Melghat to name a few. This helps maintaining genetic diversity of tigers. The buffer choosen by our Hustler is extremely dense and consists of high hills and narrow ravines with deep crevices. This is a typical feature of most forests located in highlands of central India.  These ravines are covered with all shades of green and watering holes a plenty. Largely teak and bamboo, post monsoon one can barely see a metre away. In these ravines, Hustler found his shelter as nomad and decided to make it his home. Since hustler was sheltering in ravines of Kuraigad in Rukhad buffer he is called as Kuraigad male.
Hustler was in Rukhad to create his own turf. This was evident from the fact that he was seen regularly walking on the road, hugging trees to mark his scent, scratching trees, spraying urine on trees along the edges of his territory. He was making his presence known to other tigers. This is called as “Show of Dominance” in the tiger world. Higher the claw marks on tree, bigger is the size of tiger. In short span of time locals, driver,guides and guests alike, rightly gave him a nick name “Tree Hugger”.
The Hustler – Kuraigad male walking on road.. Head On for us!
Hustler will use this turf to lay claim on all tiger resources, food-mate and water. He will use this turf to bring up his own family and ensure his genes survive the test of time. However he has only one challenge. A rival male called Kingfisher (KF). Kingfisher is an adult aging male tiger who also moved to buffer from core before Hustler. For him reason to leave core was different. It was surviving through old age. In core, he was losing his charm as younger male challenged him more often and his strength could not match up with these young males. Rippening age has it’s drawback. During entire monsoon period both hustler and KF were challenging each other by scent marking on tree’s along safari route but did not face off each other. Not atleast in front of tourists.
When I visited Rukhad during Diwali, I had high expectation of seeing final face off. However I was informed that KF was not sighted for more than 10 days. I was wondering if face off has already happened. I didn’t give up. I did few more safaris. I got to see the Hustler and his mates (two out of three tigresses), however no signs of KF. During one of our safaris, we saw a tigress treading the exact path of Hustler. It was now evident to me that era of KF was over. Tigress had changed her alignment to Hustler. She was now looking for charm and protection of younger male, the Hustler.
Tigress who was treading Hustler path. She is shy female. As soon as she saw our gypsy, she hide herself in same bamboo thicket where Hustler had done spray marking few minutes ago.
Hustler scenting marking on bamboo thickets. Marking his presence for other tigers and tigresses.
It has been almost a month since I did my trip, we still have no news of KF. Rumours of skirmish between the two are doing rounds in safarist fraternity. No one has seen/filmed or photographed the skirmish. I’m sure the face off has happened and younger blood has won over experience. This is the sad truth of life. The old must give way to young, the weak will be eliminated and only fittest will survive. The truth is that we might never know what actually happened to KF.Kuraigad/Tree hugger has hustled his way into territory of KF. He ensure all tigers in area fall in line. He has marked himself as territorial ruling male of Rukhad buffer. I’m sure over next few months we will see tiger cubs in buffers of Rukhad and legacy of hustler will continue for ages to come, unless, new Hustler arrives out of nowhere !

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