A picture of Akbar and Amar in happier times at Bokaro zoo and (below) their grieving mother Ganga in her enclosure on Wednesday. (Pankaj Singh)
So far, only Amar is living up to his name.
Diarrhoea felled Akbar, the second cub of the white tiger family at Bokaro’s Jawaharlal Nehru Biological Park on Tuesday, casting a pall of gloom on the zoo and raising concerns of winter care loopholes in the animal habitat.
Ganga and Satpuda, recessive mutants of the Bengal tiger family, reached Bokaro from Bhilai zoo in January. In May, Ganga gave birth to three male cubs, whom Bokaro zoo authorities named Amar, Akbar and Anthony.
But there was no happy end. On June 21, Anthony died when Ganga accidentally sat upon him, her claws piercing the cub’s lungs. Father Satpuda had a paralytic attack a month later and succumbed on August 25. Now, Akbar has died of recurrent diarrhoea.
Zoo authorities are upset at the turn of events — the five-member white tiger family was the love and pride of the zoo, and in fact, the steel city too — but three back-to-back tiger deaths do raise concerns on whether the zoo is equipped to house exotic breeds.
Bokaro steel plant chief of communications Sanjay Tewary said the zoo gave the cub the best possible care.
While there may be no disputing that, Akbar’s death due to diarrhoea occurred as temperatures started dropping from November 22 — around 11°C at night and 26°C in the day. The question arises why he was allowed to catch a cold in the first place. The heater in the enclosure was installed after he fell ill.
Though Akbar recovered after being administered antibiotics and saline, with low immunity, the cub weighing a mere 17kg fell ill again on Monday and died on Tuesday.
Zoo authorities, ranging from head Dr Gautam Chakrabarty to caretaker Murtaja Beg, though evidently fond of him, had perhaps not remembered the adage that prevention is better than cure.
“We installed a gigantic heater in the cage and gave the cub heat therapy with high doses of medicines and vitamin-laced milk and food. But we could not save him,” said Chakrabarty.
He added though white tigers, due to their genetic make-up and inbreeding, were weaker than their yellow counterparts, Akbar was healthy. “He was growing well, had a healthy appetite and played with Amar. I can’t believe he is no more,” the zoo head said.
Caretaker Beg pointed out that the survivors — mother Ganga and brother Amar — were traumatised.
The Telegraph on Wednesday saw the bereaved mother listless and wailing by turns, barely having 4kg of meat instead of her usual 12kg. “She always calls out to her cubs to share her food,” Beg said. “Today, there’s only one left alive.”
Six-month-old Amar looked scared to death. Hopefully, the zoo has learnt its lesson.
How could the zoo have prevented the tiger deaths?