A sad farewell to another Prince
Last year about this time, the world mourned the death of Prince, the famous singer, songwriter, actor, instrumentalist, philanthropist, dancer and record producer, who entertained millions around the globe.
This week I learned of the death of another popular Prince. This time it was the 14-year-old celebrity tiger from Bandipur National Park in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
According to the news, a post-mortem found that Prince’s stomach was empty, which means he may have starved to death. Karnataka is in the grip of a devastating drought and most of the prey has been moving out of the park. Alternatively, some recent reports said Prince had been seen limping, so perhaps he was unable to hunt prey.
A member of the State Wildlife Advisory Board put a positive spin on the death saying Bandipur has the highest density of tigers and a 14-year-old tiger dying naturally is actually good news as now another tiger can take over the territory.
Wildlife photographers will remember the massive-sized Prince as a favourite subject because he freely roamed his territory and did not shy away from tourists and photographers.
I know this is true because Prince was the tiger we saw when we visited Bandipur.
What an amazing experience it was, in more ways than one!
Most Gypsy drivers in Bandipur make an effort to keep in touch with one another during wildlife safaris, and our driver became a rally car wizard the moment he heard that Prince had been spotted lounging in a muddy pool of water.
At the time, we were going the opposite direction on a narrow stretch of bumpy dirt road more than a kilometre from Prince. So to get there fast, our driver set out at breakneck speed IN REVERSE, and drove that way for most of the distance. The ride alone was thrilling—given the condition of the road with tree roots, rocks and erosion, it came close being to a roller-coaster ride—and then we came upon Prince sauntering through the jungle.
His muddy behind and tail were evidence of where he had been resting, but he was on the move now.
He completely ignored the hordes of tourists and photographers who were watching his every move, and strolled calmly between the Gypsies and vans.
We followed him for more than 30 minutes as he meandered back and forth inspecting and spraying his territory.
Looking back at the photos, taken just four months ago, he was already looking on the thin side.
Prince, thank you for showing yourself to us. May you rest in peace.
P.S. It was hard to decide which of the more than 70 photos I took of Prince to share. And in case you were wondering, a tiger’s life expectancy in the wild is 10–15 years, so Prince did quite well.