Amidst hope, attempt to reunite 4 tiger cubs with their mother on in AP
Deccan Chronicle.| Balu Pulipaka
The tiger cubs feeding on minced chicken liver, their first such meal after being 'rescued'. (Photo by arrangement)
HYDERABAD: Wednesday night could well turn out to be a make or break with wildlife and forest officials from Andhra Pradesh setting out on their first serious attempt to reunite the four ‘rescued’ tiger cubs in the forest falling under the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve.
A senior forest department official told Deccan Chronicle on Wednesday evening that it was decided to take the cubs in a cage – appropriately modified to prevent any injuries to the around 3-month-old baby tigresses – to an area some 1.5 km away from where they were picked up by Pedda Gummadapuram villagers on March 6.
Things started looking up on Wednesday for the prospects of a reunification of the mother and cubs after some pugmarks of a tigress were found not very far from where the cubs were found. "We found pugmarks of a tigress in the morning, and in the evening, around 4.30 pm, a villager reported seeing a tiger just around a kilometre from the village. The cubs are healthy, active and normal, and further investigation is in progress, the NSTR Field Director Y. Srinivas Reddy said in a statement.
Later in the evening, the decision was taken to make an attempt to take the cubs into the forest area close to where the tigress was seen. "We are hoping that the tigress that was reported is T-108 -suspected to be the mother – and that she will come and claim her cubs," the senior forest official said.
In all, more than 100 forest department staff were pressed into service to locate the mother, and to make arrangements for a possible reunion. The plan was to take the cubs in a cage and leave them with the cage and its environs being monitored from a distance to see if the tigress returns. Once the officials can confirm it is T-108 (based on the pattern of its stripes) and its behaviour towards the cubs in the cage and their reactions, a final decision will be taken to remotely open the cage.
"We don’t know how it will all go, we are hoping for the best," the official told Deccan Chronicle. During the day, when it was discovered that the cubs were no longer willing to drink diluted goat’s milk fortified with some vitamins, they were offered minced chicken liver. "They competed with each other and finished off between them 250 grams of the meat," the official said.
Earlier in the day, there were some serious concerns about the health of one of the cubs that had not been as active as the other three. Officials confirmed that one cub appeared weaker than the others. Meanwhile, sources said those vested with the responsibility of caring for the cubs, did not follow the NTCA laid down protocol with respect to their care. There was no monitoring of the number of times they fed, urinated or defecated. Every one of these is important to establish their health status. And one of them was definitely weak and could well have contracted some infection," a source said.
Those tending to the cubs even did not know how to bottle feed them with milk and were holding the cubs up vertically instead of the laid down protocol of having them on their four legs while feeding them. The sources said, despite these setbacks, their reunion with their mother is all that everyone involved is waiting for.