Tiger cub under care of 'Human mom'

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, October 28, 2010
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Unbelievable .. the new mom refused her bubbly baby. While he was screaming for the very first drop of breast milk that guards him from all bacterial attacks, the mom ignored the newly born and disappeared into her den.

Baby tiger [File photo]

Baby tiger [File photo]

The watchful eyes of the locality gave only 10 hours for the mother to neglect him. When they realized she did not want her baby any more, they separated the baby from her. The tiny bundle of joy was lucky to escape death at the hands of his mother.

Today, the six-day-old Bengali tiger cub born in Sri Lanka's one and only zoo -- Dehiwala Zoological Gardens (DZG) -- is in safe hands but struggling to survive without his mother's milk and warmth.

Yet to be named, the tiger cub is slowly gaining weight as he is bottle-fed with special milk formula for cat species.

Though the baby's health is slowly improving, he needs the round the clock support of the zoo workers to survive for the next three months, which is the risky period for a tiger cub as he lost the precious protein -- colostrum -- in mother's milk. He is vulnerable to illnesses during this time and needs to develop high immune system to survive.

DZG Director General Bhashwara Gunarathna said the maximum care was given to the cub and he was now out of danger.

"Every one in the zoo is concerned about the cub and wants to save his life. He is under the care of the best caretaker who has experience of taking care of neglected and abandoned animal babies, " Gunarathna said.

Gunaratne said the cub would not be exhibited to the public during the next three months as he is vulnerable to diseases.

The zoo has purchased sterilization machine worth 20,000 rupees (about 182 U.S. dollars), gloves and feeding bottles to protect the live of the new arrival to the zoo. He is fed with "Lactol", a special infant formula for cat species, which costs 1,500 rupees ( about 13.64 U.S. dollars) per 250 grams.

They have also consulted the zoos in Indonesia and Singapore for further advice to raise the cub.

The tiger cub's mother, along with other two tigers, stepped into Sri Lankan shores from China 's Xiang Jiang Safari Park under an animal exchanged program in 2007.

Jagath Jayasekara, the veterinarian of the zoo, said the mother had refused to feed her three new born cubs in June 2010.

Those three tiger cubs died of dehydration.

"As we know her previous behavior, the cub was separated within hours of its birth. There are three reasons for a tigress to refuse feeding the new born. One is when they are not in the natural environment, the second is when the cubs have abnormalities and the third is psychological behavior of the mother," Jayasekara said.

According to Jayasekara, the reason for the mother to refuse the cub this time was possibly her previous experience and she was not used to feed her babies.

"But last time, we found at the post-mortem that her three cubs were deformed and had abnormalities in their liver functioning. That was the reason for her to refuse them," he said.

The veterinarian said the mother could be tranquilized to get the colostrum but they feared the drugs given to tranquilize the animal would go into the cub's body.

The tiger cub, born with a weight of 900 grams, is now 1200 grams and adapting to the new environment.

While his mother roaming and roaring in her "empty nest," the baby sleeps quietly in a baby cot with a cozy mattress and a pillow, covered by a mosquito net.

Drinking bottled milk and sitting on the lap of the experienced caretaker, Palitha, who raised abandoned animals in the zoo including a chimpanzee, he gradually responds to human voice.

Unlike a cub in the den, he will play with stuffed toys instead of bones of dead animals and will soon run after Palitha like a cat.

The tiger cub, if lucky enough to survive for the next three months, will be the first ever human friendly Bengali Tiger in the zoo.

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