Tiger cubs get toys to play with

HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh forest department has set itself a tough challenge. That of raising the four tiger cubs found in forests in the Nandyal district - and currently housed in the rescue centre at Sri Venkateswara Zoo Park in Tirupati - in a manner that can lead to an attempt to reintroduce them back in the wild.

While that goal is at least a year and a half away, “right now, we are doing everything we should, and can, to ensure their well-being,” the principal chief conservator of forests (head of forest force) and the chief wildlife warden of Andhra Pradesh, Y. Madhusudhana Reddy, told Deccan Chronicle on Monday.

The cubs, presently housed in two rooms adjacent to the zoo’s veterinary clinic, are doing well and are getting used to their new environment. To keep things interesting for them, and to ensure they stay active, some ‘enrichments’ have been provided to them. “We have given them a couple of specially ordered and made wooden balls they can play with. There is now also a small platform with steps they can climb,” Reddy said.

Additionally, to eliminate the artificial atmosphere they are in currently, the plan is to add camouflage material on the walls and some clean logs for them also to play with. Also being considered is the playing of normal jungle sounds so that the cubs stay familiar with the natural environment they were born into.

In addition to the zoo’s veterinary team, Reddy said, an animal welfare committee with professors from pathology and parasitology in Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University will keep an eye to ensure the cubs stay healthy. He also said senior wildlife veterinarians, Dr. M. Navin Kumar, who headed the Nehru Zoological Park vet team for many years, and Dr Arun Zachariah from the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala were consulted on the diet for the cubs, and on their general upkeep.

“The next step will be to release them, after a month, into a small paddock with a night shelter next to the veterinary clinic, followed by a bigger enclosure after a couple of more months. The plan is to, in stages, let them grow in a natural setting with absolute minimum human contact,” Reddy said.

The rescue centre, part of the extensive 5,532 acre zoo complex, has plenty of wild area to which the cubs would be introduced to in stages, but not before spending at least a month under tight supervision with a 24x7 CCTV monitoring.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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