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Two Bengal tiger cubs rescued from a dry water tank

28/12/2012 14:26:53

One of the orphan cubs shortly before capture. Joho Molo (top), Sheren Shrestha / WTI

Orphan cubs had been stealing chickens form villagers
December 2012. Two orphaned Royal Bengal tiger cubs have been ‘rescued' from a dry water tank near theDibang Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh.

The cubs were wandering the area without their mother for more than a month, occasionally lifting poultry from local households for survival. Local residents reported the cubs to local wildlife authorities in November. A team from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) led by Ipra Mekola, Arunachal Pradesh State Wildlife Advisory Member reached the site on December 6, to assist the Forest Department in tracking the cubs.

Originally 4 cubs!
"There were four cubs according to the information from the local people. They had been lifting mainly poultry, and had made unsuccessful attempts at larger livestock. One of the cubs was reportedly injured," said Mekola.

On December 11, the team discovered that three of the cubs had been trapped in a dry water tank, reported IFAW-WTI biologist Soumya Das Gupta. The villagers had covered the tank with wooden planks and branches to prevent the cubs from escaping till the rescue team arrived.

The landscape where the tiger cubs were roaming. Photo credit Joho Molo (top), Sheren Shrestha / WTI.

The landscape where the tiger cubs were roaming. Photo credit Joho Molo (top), Sheren Shrestha / WTI.

Two healthy cubs
Two of the cubs were healthy and were successfully sedated and removed from the tank by WTI veterinarians Dr Jahan Ahmed and Dr Nupur Ranjan Buragohain. The third was severely ill when first sighted, and succumbed the following morning.

The rescued cubs were a male and a female; the deceased cub was also a female. Post-mortem revealed pneumonia, starvation and hypoglycaemic shock as the cause of death. The status of the fourth cub is unknown. The two rescued cubs will be kept under observation till they are stabilised.

"After discussing with experts and the Forest Department to select a suitable release site a soft release method will be followed. The cubs will be put in a big enclosure in the forest with provisional food which will give them opportunities to hone their hunting skills on live prey and get habituated to the wild before we finally release them," said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Regional Head and Principal
Veterinarian, WTI- Northeast.

"Dibang valley is a very good tiger habitat and very rich in wildlife. However, no studies have been done on this landscape - on the tiger or any other species. This area has the potential to even be declared a tiger reserve, which is going to benefit the wildlife as well as people here," said Mekola.

He also thanked the locals who supported the team, particularly the village head Chipi Molo, who had filed the report on behalf of the village. Molo hosted the team at her home through the operation, and helped crowd control during the rescue.

"People here consider tigers equal to humans. We should use this traditional belief to save the tigers here before things change for the worse," Mekola said.

Photos: Joho Molo (top), Sheren Shrestha / WTI

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