The celebrations at the National Zoological Park over the birth of two tiger cubs born to a white Royal Bengal tigress and a yellow-striped Royal Bengal tiger on August 15 were cut short, after they both died just days apart. The female cub died on August 18, while the male cub died on August 26, confirmed zoo director Renu Singh.
“A panel of three doctors was set up and a post-mortem was conducted, which revealed the female cub developed liver cirrhosis, while the other one died of gastroenteritis,” said Singh. In May, the zoo facilitated mating between three-year-old white Royal Bengal tigress Nirbhaya and five-year-old yellow-striped Royal Bengal tiger Karan. The last time such inbreeding took place at the Delhi Zoo was in 1991, when yellow-striped Royal Bengal tiger Sundar and white Royal Bengal tigress Shanti mated, and had two offspring- one white and one yellow.
After completing the gestation period of three months, Nirbhaya gave birth to two cubs, as well as a stillborn one on the morning of August 15. “We put up CCTV cameras inside and a screen outside to monitor the activity of the cubs and the mother. There were keepers on duty all night to ensure there was no problem. The cub which died on August 26 was healthy and drinking its mother’s milk. It then suddenly passed away,” said Singh.
While the female cub weighed around a kilo, the male cub weighed 700 grams, said Singh. The average weight of newborns is between 785 grams and 1,610 grams. Singh said, “We expected a bigger litter and heavier cubs, but that didn’t happen. Maybe it happened because it was her first litter. I haven’t lost hope though. We will try again this year, for better genes”.
Sanjay Kumar, DIG, National Tiger Conservation Authority, said, “If recessive genes get clubbed together, they can be fatal and cause death. Since the cubs died so young, it could be a genetic disorder. I suggest that a genetics analysis be conducted to understand the reason, as it can be helpful in the future. If the mother develops an infection during pregnancy, that too can be problematic for the cubs.”
For now, the mother is inside its private enclosure, and will only be back in the public eye after a few weeks, once it recuperates from the birth and death of the two cubs.