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They are playing the purr-fect couple once again

- Big cats Sugreev & Durga bury hatchet after several months, Birsa zoo expects new guests in New Year

A little over a year after their estrangement, the Bengal tiger couple at Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park, Ranchi, is showing royal signs of togetherness, renewing hopes of cub cheer in the coming year.

Zoo stud Sugreev is slowly and steadily wooing back his miffed ladylove Durga, a sight their handlers say is as rare as it is lovely.

“Unlike in the past, they are no more engaged in fiery fights. Rather, the two are now found soaking up the winter sun — cuddling, rolling and chasing each other merrily,” a member of staff at the Ormanjhi-based zoo said.

An excited Dr Ajay Kumar, the zoo vet, seconded the staff. “It is something visitors rarely get to watch. Looks like good times are here,” he said, indicating that the nine-year-old big cats might go the family way again.

The Sugreev-Durga love story had soured after the tigress lost all her three cubs in April 2011. Despite their great cat chemistry, a disconsolate Durga began distancing herself from her mate.

A zoo caretaker said her temper frayed with time and later she showed signs of depression. “A female, especially a mother, tends to get dangerous in extreme situations like grief. She can overpower and injure her male at such times,” he said.

Understandably, zoo officials didn’t make any attempt to reunite them. Both were lodged in separate cages and released in their enclosure only by turn until this month.

Dr Kumar said they began gauging Durga’s mood from December 17. “The two were put in the same cage. As expected, they fought on Day One. Durga kept grunting in resentment, Sugreev too fumed. We separated them again,” he said.

The next day, the same drill was followed.

“This time, things changed. For the first time in months, they looked at each other without anger — a hint that they were willing to come close. We left them together the whole day and monitored their every move. As time passed, they started cuddling and rolling on the ground. These are very positive indications of increasing compatibility,” the vet said.

Zoo officials maintained that the “chemistry was ripe” and mating was “only a matter of time” now. A closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera has been installed in their enclosure to keep continuous track of any such development.

“We are keeping their cages open. The CCTV camera will keep us updated about their movements, especially during the night, and help us ascertain Durga’s pregnancy in order to devise our caretaking modules. The gestation period is generally between 100-110 days. So, if all goes well, we will greet new guests in early 2013,” Dr Kumar said.

Though both tigers are of age, they were given special food supplements for a month to prepare them for mating.

“Vitamins A, D3 and E, along with nutritious diet and B-complex tablets, were given to the cat couple. While A and E enhance fertility immensely, the others increase food absorption capabilities. The two are now fit for fun. Their coats are shiny and there’s a glow on their faces. Call it love,” the vet chuckled.