There have been quite a number of wild tigers that have become famous during their lifetime, by virtue of either some special characteristic inherent in them, or due to the mere fact that their high visibility in the forest has been instrumental in making them subjects of sustained documentation of their lives through extensive photographs and text.
The ones that come readily to mind are Sheroo, the Corbett National Park tiger that attained fame initially due to his easy demeanor and high visibility, but later became infamous after his mauling of Subedar Ali, a forest department staffer posted in Corbett. Then there was Dhitoo, another robust male tiger from Corbett, whose infamy condemned him to an existence in the Kanpur zoo after he mauled and killed David Hunt, an English birdwatcher on a visit to the tiger reserve. In Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, there was the legendary tigress Sita, who attained international recognition for her high fecundity and the large number of litters that she bore during her lifetime.
But very few wild tigers have been able to achieve a reputation as awesome as the one that has gone the way of a male tiger called Charger, who was till recently a resident of Bandhavgarh national park in Madhya Pradesh, Central India located about 250 kms south of Allahabad. For almost the entire decade of the nineties, Charger happened to be the most feared and talked about tiger, for both the tourists as well as the wildlife managers of Bandhavgarh.
As his name suggests, Charger was so called because of his instinctive propensity to charge at vehicles and riding elephants that tended to come too close for his comfort. Since tiger behaviour can vary extremely with different individuals, this inherent characteristic of Charger was acknowledged and respected by all, once he established his territory on the tourism zone in Bandhavgarh.
Fortunately, Charger was able to continue holding his territory for almost ten years, and sired many litters till he died naturally last year of old age and consequent debility. During his last days he did run into trouble, unable to hunt after being injured and chased away from his territory by a young dominant male, but that was all a part of the natural sequence that wild tigers go through. What was of importance was the fact that Charger had been able to live naturally as long as wild tigers are supposed to do, and his passing away left no regrets.
Charger’s life and times have now been documented in the form of a book titled ‘Charger – the long living tiger’. It has been authored by Shahbaz Ahmed, a 1981 batch IFS officer of MP cadre, who was Field Director of Bandhavgarh tiger reserve at the time of Charger’s death, and has been published by Print World, an Allahabad based publishing house. The book contains text that delves into the realm of tiger behaviour from a writer who possesses a deep insight of the subject, and it is also beautifully embellished with photographs of Charger. It carries a graphic account of the last days of Charger, when he had to be rescued from certain starvation, and possible poaching, after he was chased away from his territory and spotted in the buffer zone of the reserve. There are also interesting accounts of actual encounters which people had with Charger, and the viciousness which he was able to convey during all the mock charges that he made at his terrified targets, although he never as much as hurt any human being during his entire life Before he became famous as Charger, he was known as pee pee Singh.