Foresters train abandoned tiger cub for life in the wild

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Idukki,Apr 12 (PTI):Abandoned by its mother when just two months old, a tiger cub is being taken care of by forest officials of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR).

The cub, which was hardly 2 kg when found near the ancient Mangala Devi temple at Thekkady in the district on November 21 last, was starving for three days, extremely weak, had injuries on its hindlegs, suffered from corneal opacity, cloudiness in both lenses and had injuries in the stomach.

Perhaps due to its injuries, the cub was abandoned, forest officials said.

For two days, the officials tried in vain to track the mother with the help of camera traps set up in various places in the area.

Then, the foresters thought it best to bring the cub up by themselves.

Firstly, treatment was given to the animal on the basis of the protocols laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)as per which it has to be released in a small area in the first phase, according to PTR Deputy Director Sunil Babu.

A cage is being prepared for the cuband would be placed in an area of 10-50 hectares in the sanctuary and subsequently the area would be enlarged for the animal to move around more freely, he told PTI. Since the SOP (standard operating procedure) says the animal should be trained before being left in the wild, hunting lessons would be imparted at a later stage, he said.

It has been six months now and the cub has gained around 23 kgs, stable after being given physiotherapy treatment, vitamins, oral supplements and nerve tonics, said Anu Raj, a veterinarian, who is part of the team takingcare of the animal.

It is being fed about 1,000-1,200 grams of raw chicken and beef besides 600 gms of goat milk, he said.

'We are expecting that by the time she is a year old, she would weigh 60-90 KG. It is a trial and error method we are following. Perhaps for the first time a tiger cub, rescued from the wild, is being looked after in this manner', he said.

The cubwas given soft tiger replica toys to play with, but she has chewed them off in no time, he said.

The feline is now used to the officials as she has seen them since she was two months old. There are two handlers who feed her everyday.

She is made to run and walk to strengthen her legs, and is bathed too - all these to make her adapt to the wild life in the near future.

The PTR, spread in 777 square km area in the Western Ghats, is a rich source of bio diversity andhas an estimated 40-45 full-grown tigers besides other wildlife. PTI UD NVG NVG