February 6, 2017 6:20:55 pm
In a bid to improve the survival chances of the three 40-days-old orphaned tiger cubs, the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve authorities have placed a cuddly ‘dummy toy tigress’ as their substitute mother. The specially-designed toy tigress, which the cubs consider as their real mother, has been kept in an enclosure n the forest and is fitted with synthetic nipples and a milk bottle to feed the baby tigers.
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The mother of the three cubs was found dead on January 19 in a non-forest area in Shahdol district. Five people had been arrested for allegedly electrocuting the tigress. “The cubs were born about 40 days back. After locating the strayed cubs following the killing of their mother, we placed them in an enclosure in the forest area, where this specially-designed dummy toy tigress was kept,” Director of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Mridul Pathak said.
“The dummy tigress has been fitted with artificial nipples and milk bottle hidden in the foam and cotton wool. After the initial hiccups, the cubs started to suckle as if they are having it from their own mother,” he said. The cubs were initially hand-fed milk and required medicines by the forest department staff. However, the administration later decided to reduce the human interference.
“In a bid to reduce the human interference, we decided to keep the cubs with the dummy toy tigress,” Pathak said. He said the cubs now play with the dummy just as they would play with their mother. “Surprisingly, the cubs consider the dummy tigress as their mother. They not only get food through this dummy tigress, but they also play with it. But, more is required to reduce human interference further and we are thinking in this direction,” Pathak said.
“Moreover, the toy is made to smell like a real tigress with the use of some grass and tiger stool,” Pathak said. The toy tigress is being modified to further reduce the human interference, he said adding, “Presently, we have to remove the dummy tigress to fill the milk bottle attached to it, but we are now planning to fix this bottle through a pipe so that levels of milk in the bottle could be maintained without human interference.”
When asked about whether this was the first such experiment in which nursing care is being offered to tiger cubs through a dummy tigress, Pathak declined to comment. The carcass of the tigress, named T-1, mother of these cubs, was found dead on January 19 in a non-forest area about 125-kilometers from Shahdol district headquarters of Madhya Pradesh. About a week after that, forest officials arrested five persons from a village on the charges of electrocuting the tigress.
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