The enclosure at Tata zoo where the tiger cub is being kept. (Bhola Prasad)
It’s a happy birthday of sorts for a Royal Bengal Tiger cub in Jamshedpur. Thirteen-year-old Shanti’s second offspring turns a month old on Thursday.
The cub was born in the Tata zoo on April 17, just three months after Shanti’s first cub died. The little fellow was barely 40 days old, grossly underweight at 1.7kg and had moped to his death as his temperamental mother had rejected him a fortnight after his birth.
This time, Shanti is behaving like a responsible mother, much to the relief of zoo authorities. The cub — its gender has not been ascertained yet, thanks to the over-protective tigress who will not let mere humans come too close — shows every sign of being comfortable with its mother, whom she suckles.
Still, Tata zoo officials can’t help being jumpy.
Though Shanti is being affectionate towards her cub, they want her good humour to continue. Zoo authorities know that Shanti, born to tiger couple Ben and Shyamali in 1999, can be a mite difficult to get along with. Six-year-old Raghav, her much younger partner, knows it bloody well, literally, as the temperamental feline had scratched him violently in 2011 when she rejected his attentions.
Raghav, very wisely now, is paying no attention to Shanti and their cub.
Meanwhile, zoo authorities are leaving no stone unturned to keep her in good humour. Both the mother and cub have been kept isolated inside their cell, away from public view.
“The animals are out of public view. Barring a caretaker and I, nobody is allowed to go inside the cell. The entire cell is covered with mats. We have also put on an air cooler,” vet Manik Palit told The Telegraph, adding that Shanti was wolfing down beef, milk and calcium-vitamin supplements.
“We are doing our best to keep Shanti in good humour. We don’t want her to abandon her cub once again,” said zoo director Bipul Chakravarty.
Palit added that people would be allowed to see the cub only by June second week.
“Shanti has given birth for the second time at an advanced age. It is difficult to predict her mood swings. She may become irritated by any disturbance now and may again abandon her cub. The cub’s survival is our priority as Royal Bengal Tigers are an endangered species,” the vet added.
He is guessing that the cub is a male. “It’s my own prediction, watching it move about,” he added.
For now, let’s light a candle for the cub.