Tiger Stripes: Identify individual tigers by their stripes and markings

Thursday, May 9, 2013posted by Bruce 9:01 AM

Nature has provided an interesting concept of identifying individuals by certain patterns like tiger stripes, or even human fingerprints for that matter. There are no two individuals alike so one can recognize the same subject in several photographs if the angle is right. I was able to pick-out the same tiger in two photos taken more than a week apart.

Two tiger cubs sparring in the lake at Tadoba.

As most of you know, I recently went to India and photographed some extremely interesting tigers in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in central India. It was an exciting trip and I got many photographs of the striped predator including jumping tigers in the lake, and close-up roadside portraits plus many more. The cats here pay no attention to the vehicles most of the time and hence, photos are pretty straightforward with the right equipment, right techniques, right timing and some luck I guess.


Tigers sparring up-close.

On the second morning of my safari, a pair of young tiger cubs entered the shallow lake for some fun and cooling off in the morning sun. I had my Nikon D3s and a 200-400mm VRII lens with a 2X converter for 800mm on a monopod and when the action began, I was ready catching the two in mid-air. This shot is probably one of my best ever photographs as a wildlife photographer.

Tiger cub posing by side of the road

Later in the safari near the end, I caught a tiger posing by the side of the road. This female cub is almost mature and about ready to leave the care of her mother and father. She has been roaming by herself more and more recently.

Tiger posing up-close: Note stripe on left cheek.

In the late afternoon on the next to the last day, a whole bunch of jeeps or ‘Gypsies’ as they are called in India were parked waiting on a sleeping tiger. We could not carry-on because the drivers had plugged-up the road so we also parked and waited.

After awhile, a cub got up from her slumber in the bush on the left and crossed the road in front of us. She walked between the cars and an Indian forest official, and then came over to the right side of our jeep and plopped down with her left front paw resting on a rock. I got many photos and some great portraits with loads of behavior and flashing canines.

Imagine my surprise when going through my photos that I was able to distinguish the tiger by the side of the road was the same animal as in the ‘jumping tigers’ shot. After almost a week, this lovely cat came back to bid me farewell and to show me once again, the magnificent beauty of these striped creatures. Also, on how one can recognize individuals by their distinct markings. A perfect ending to the saga of Tadoba Andhari: Land of the Tiger…!




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