Goat milk for Lucknow cubs after isolation from tiger
Deepak Gidwani / DNATuesday, November 17, 2009 0:24 IST
Lucknow: Call it a twist of fate or an example of nature's wondrous ironies, a couple of newly-born tiger cubs at the Lucknow zoo are surviving on milk from the udders of a goat, one of the big cat's favourite prey.
The two cubs, just seven days old, were separated from their mother after two other siblings died over the past week. Two keepers are now looking after them at the zoo hospital round the clock. The zoo staff is praying for their survival.
"We were overjoyed when we the cubs were born because this happened here after 14 years," said zoo director Renu Singh. "But our joy soon turned to gloom after two of the cubs died one after the other," she said.
Asked about the chances of their survival, she said, "We are keeping our fingers crossed." The cubs are surviving on goat milk, as it is easy to digest. They are fed 25-30 ml every three hours from infant bottles.
Ipshita, which gave birth to the four cubs on November 8, and her mate Shishir, both Royal Bengal tigers, had been brought from Orissa's Nandan Kanan Wildlife Park in 2007. Ipshita is about five years old and has given a litter for the first time.
"That could be the main reason why she could not look after her cubs well," says zoo vet Dr Utkarsh Shukla. "Perhaps she does not know how to rear the little ones," he added.
He ruled out "rejection" by the mother as a possible cause of early deaths. "She was keeping the cubs close to her all the time but was not feeding them properly. After two cubs died, we didn't want to take any chances," Dr Shukla said. Asked if the cubs would survive, he said: "The chances are 50-50... hand-rearing is not half as good as the tigress feeding the cubs herself."
The last time a tigress, Shefali, gave a litter of three cubs, none of them could be saved. "We are praying that this doesn't happen again," said Rafiq, one of the keepers, folding his hands in prayer.