Swarna was shell-shocked on Tuesday, a day after her third offspring passed away almost without treatment. Unlike others, she did not manhandle the doctors for failing to diagnose the little one’s disease. She just sobbed. Silently.
She became a proud mother of three on Independ- ence Day. A little over three weeks on, she lost all of them — one by one on August 28, September 2 and September 3.
The Royal Bengal tigress had to watch the painful death of her cubs at the zoo hospital because it lacked experts and necessary equipment. The authorities admitted that they could not even diagnose the disease of the cubs properly.
Chief wildlife warden of Bihar D.K. Shukla told The Telegraph that the zoo hospital was not equipped with the required equipment to treat delicate animals. Nor there is an expert doctor in the state to handle cubs suffering from infection.
“There is no specialised wildlife expert either in the state or in the country to handle such cases. Still, we had called an expert from the Wildlife Trust of India, who closely supervised the treatment of the cubs after they were separated from their mother a few days after their birth,” said Shukla.
The three cubs were separated from Swarna on August 20 after she stopped feeding them because of an intestinal infection. The cubs also contracted the infection from their mother.
After the cubs were separated from their mother, they were bottle-fed. Zoo director Abhay Kumar, zoo veterinarian Dr Ajit Kumar, Dr Abhinit Bhawal, an expert from Wildlife Trust of India, Guwahati, and other doctors from Patna Veterinary College monitored the alternative feeding of the cubs, which started refusing the goat milk within a few days of contracting the infection (see graphics).
“The origin of the infection is still not known but its intensity was very high by the time the cubs were separated from their mother. The toxins must have entered their body while they were in the tiger enclosure with their mother. An infection causing toxins spreads rapidly in the body of newborns,” said Dr Abhijit.
He added: “The intensity of infection was so high in the cubs that none of the medicines worked. Samples from the bodies of the cubs have been sent to Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, for detailed investigation.”
Shukla, the chief wildlife warden of the state, said: “The zoo authorities could not diagnose the cause of infection in Swarna’s intestine, nor in the cubs. Thus, symptomatic treatment was given to the cubs.”
According to the post-mortem report, deficiency of minerals like potassium, calcium or iron was found in the body of the cub that died on August 28.
Dr Abhijit said the condition of the cubs that died on Sunday and Monday was so bad that they were only on oxygen and saline support in their last four days. “The cubs suffered multiple organ failure. Their kidney, liver and brain among several other body parts were damaged prior to their death. They slipped into coma because of systemic breakdown in their body and survived on oxygen and saline support for four days,” he said.
The doctor claimed experts should closely monitor tigresses in the advanced stage of pregnancy. “The zoo authorities monitored the delivery of cubs on closed-circuit television, but I believe that there is requirement of better monitoring of reproduction of big cats at the zoo,” Dr Abhijit said.
Shukla pledged to improve the facilities at the zoo hospital utilising funds to the tune of Rs 1 crore. “During a recent visit of a team of Central Zoo Authority, its members had suggested better equipment and techniques at the zoo hospital. Accordingly, we have made a plan for the zoo hospital with an estimated outlay of Rs 1 crore,” said Shukla.