Delhi Zoo’s white tiger, Vijay — who grabbed headlines after he mauled to death a 22-year-old man who fell into his enclosure two years ago — fathered five cubs last year, said officials.
The cubs were born after a successful breeding programme by the zoo, raising the number of white tigers to seven.
Officials said Vijay mated with Kalpana, who “gave birth to five healthy cubs”. “Vijay is our best breeder. We are planning to do the breeding again,” said Riaz Ahmed Khan, Chief Curator of the zoo.
However, months after the birth, one of the cubs choked to death. “A piece of meat got stuck in the cub’s throat. He couldn’t swallow it and ended up choking to death,” said Khan.
Officials said of the four surviving cubs, three are female. They have been named Neeta, Meeta and Reeta while the male is called Tipu. The cubs, around 10 months old now, are let out of their cages into the enclosure at 9.30 am till 2 pm.
Their handler, Manoj (22), takes care of them. “Manoj has been taking care of Vijay for more than four years. These cubs would not have survived without his care. He makes sure that their food is minced into small pieces,” said Nitin, another handler. “The white tiger is the zoo’s main attraction. There are only around 100-110 white tigers in India and all of them are found in zoos,” said Khan.
According to the Indian Tiger Welfare Society’s website, white tigers are rarely seen in the wild with only 12 sightings in the past 100 years.
(The reporters are interns with The Indian Express)