India: Rescued jungle cat cubs perish in captivity

Nitya Kaushik

Mumbai, July 10: Three newborn jungle cat cubs that were being raised at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) forest hospital, perished while in the custody of the forest officials.

The police had found the cubs at Aarey Colony on June 11 and handed them over to the forest authorities.

Dr Kishore Batwe, wildlife veterinarian of SGNP, rued their deaths, saying, “We took utmost care to ensure the survival of the cubs. They were merely 24-48 hours old, when they were separated from their mother, and had no body fat or vitamins. Their death was beyond our control.” Batwe said that while two cubs died within two weeks, the third perished during the incessant rains last week, when their staff couldn’t get to office due to heavy flooding in the park.

The wildlife vet had earlier insisted on strict safety measure, prohibiting visitors from touching them, and forming a incubator-like atmosphere to maintain their body warmth. He had pointed out at an early stage that they were prone to various infections and had to be handled with care. “The cubs had received hardly any milk from their mother. They had no essential vitamins in their bodies. We were feeding them diluted goats’ milk but that was not a sufficient source of nutrition,” said Batwe.

Dr Ashish Sutar, hospital manager, Bombay Society for Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA), said, “Colostrum, the milk a mother secretes in the initial two to three days of childbirth, is important for the young ones to develop antibodies and nutrients.”

“If the cubs get infected, medication becomes that much harder because their internal organs are not yet fully developed and their immune system is weak. Considering these factors, it may have been very difficult to raise such small cubs in captivity,” he said.

Bittu Sahgal, environmentalist and editor of Sanctuary magazine, said that rescuing young ones from the wild was against law. “The police were wrong in picking up the cubs as no animal abandons its cubs within two days of birth. The mother may have temporarily left the cubs in what she thought was a safe place and gone hunting.”

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