Tigress Panna has long been a symbol of the adaptability, intelligence, and endurance of a wild tiger. As previously documented on our blog, she overcame the odds time and again. She survived vicious attacks from her mother, the tigress Shadow, as a tatty-eared and small tigress that was shy and retreating. Against the odds, Panna went on to become a skillful hunter and produced three beautiful cubs that have been the delight of photographers at Tiger Canyon.
On 16 August Tiger Canyon scouts located Panna’s body at Zaria’s Koppies: Panna had been killed by the tigress Oria, who has claimed a neighbouring territory. Both of the tigresses produced three cubs late in 2017. Zaria’s Koppies lie within a so-called no-man’s-land that forms a boundary between the two tigress’s territories. Both the tigresses had made respective kills on the previous day, making their dispute most likely a territorial one.
Panna rotated the area in which she kept her cubs every few days in order to provide them with a secure location where they would be safe from other tigers. Having already kept her cubs in one location for several days, she was scouting for a new area of safety. Typically Panna would scout a new site on her own before moving the cubs, and on this day she was heading on her usual route towards Zaria’s Koppies when she encountered the tigress Oria. Since Oria had killed a warthog the previous day, it was likely that she had left the kill with her own cubs and was also heading out on a similar scouting mission when the two tigresses collided in unclaimed territory. Even though these Koppies do not lie within the bounds of her own territory, Panna often brought her cubs to this location because Oria’s cubs were still too small to be moved to a site so close to another tigress’s territory – however, Oria’s cubs have grown, emboldening the tigress to seek further ground.
Ultimately, the tigresses most likely clashed over a future territory for their cubs. Both Panna and Oria shared the same mother, the fearsome tigress Shadow, though sired by different tigers, making Oria younger than Panna (Oria is 5 while Panna was 9). The tiger Seatao and the tigress Shadow were Oria’s parents, both very big tigers, which gave Oria a sizable advantage over the smaller tigress Panna. It is also more likely that Oria would have been the stronger fighter as she has displayed more aggression since her cub days, while Panna was a more evasive tigress that often survived on her wits. Oria had also been seen moving into Panna’s territory on several occasions before the fight, and being the more dominant tigress she would have moved more confidently into Panna’s territory now that her cubs have grown.
In the days following her death the tiger Khumba, who sired her cubs, emerged as their protector. Khumba was seen pulling meat into a bush at the base of Panna’s Mountain where the cubs were residing; as one of the cubs came down the mountain, Khumba appeared from the bush and lead the cub to the remainder of the kill, where it could drag a part of the warthog into the bush to feed in safety.
Since that time the cubs have been seen moving more freely about Panna’s territory, though staying close to the mountain, with the boldest of the three often following Khumba as they would have followed Panna. It is to be expected that Khumba will continue to protect his cubs in this way until they are mature enough to disperse into their own territory, in an effort to preserve his gene line.
Panna had emerged from the adversity of the wild as one of the most beloved and intelligent tigers at Tiger Canyon, her shyness disappearing in the confidence of her survival as a wonderful tiger to observe and photograph at close-range. Her singular tatty-ears and her scarred, deep-set eyes made her easily distinguishable and many guests returned over the years to be close to the ragged survivor.