A lion cub cuddles up to a teddy bear in a crib, a ticking clock inside the soft toy imitating the heartbeat of the mother who abandoned him. At the Machia Safari Park in Jodhpur, it was as if a fairy tale had just turned real. Until the wake-up call came just five days later.
On Sunday, the two-week-old cub succumbed to the punishing summer heat and weak immunity. “On June 14, he fell ill. We tried to revive him by putting him inside a crib with a teddy bear. We even put a ticking clock inside the toy to simulate heartbeat,” said Sharavan Singh Rathore, wildlife veterinary doctor at the park.
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“The cub got attached to the soft toy. He would snuggle up to it, thinking it was his mother. Since mother’s milk was not available, we fed him about 15 ml of cow milk six times a day. But the cub’s weak immunity and Jodhpur’s heat proved too much for him,” said Rathore.
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Park officials said the cub was one of two delivered on June 7 by a lioness translocated to Jodhpur from Junagarh in Gujarat. Both were born premature, after 95 days — the gestation period for a lion cub is about 105 days. While the other cub died, this one survived, but only for his mother to abandon him.
“We tried to make her take the cub back. But she just turned away and sat at a distance. She was also getting a little aggressive,” said Rathore.
According to Rathore, an incubator, which ensures a cooler temperature and a sanitised environment, could have saved the little big cat. But the park did not have that facility. “Now we are hoping that the lioness will give birth once again, probably by September,” said Rathore.