When the three-year-old white Bengal tigress at the National Zoological Park in New Delhi stopped eating Tuesday, her caretaker and the zoo authorities knew it was time. Early Wednesday morning, she gave birth to two yellow-striped cubs inside enclosure number 10, and a stillborn cub in the evening.
In May, the zoo conducted an inbreeding experiment after 27 years, when mating was facilitated between white tigress Nirbhaya and a five-year-old Royal Bengal tiger called Karan.
Confirming the birth of the cubs, zoo director Renu Singh told The Indian Express: “We nervously awaited their arrival and here they are… born on Independence Day. We don’t know their gender yet because it was not an assisted birth. We have been monitoring from outside the enclosure because any interference on our part can turn things around… this is also Nirbhaya’s first litter.”
More personnel have been put on duty for the next few days outside Nirbhaya’s enclosure, and CCTV cameras too have been installed inside the enclosure to monitor the mother and the cubs.
When the tigress conceived, she was put on a special diet of three kilos of chicken, an egg and a litre of milk, apart from 12 kilos of meat.
“When a pregnant tigress refuses food closer to finishing the 100-105-days gestation period, it means she is about to deliver. That’s what happened with Nirbhaya too… she stopped eating 24 hours before she gave birth to the cubs,” Singh said.
The cubs have not been named yet, nor will they be put out in the public eye soon, just like their mother. “We haven’t named the cubs yet and it will take a while before we find out their gender… right now they will only be breastfed. The team of vets has observed that the cubs are healthy,” said Singh who is keen on repeating this experiment for the sake of “better genes”.
The last time inbreeding of tigers was done at the Delhi zoo was in 1991, when Royal Bengal tiger Sundar mated with white tigress Shanti who gave birth to two cubs, one white and the other yellow.