Shanti (right) with her cub Dona at Tata zoo in Jamshedpur on Wednesday. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Chinese tiger mom Amy Chua, whose strict parenting memoir caused a global roar, has a lot in common with Shanti, the Royal Bengal matriarch of Tata Steel Zoological Park, Jamshedpur.
Shanti is a hard taskmaster, teaching her nine-month-old daughter Dona tough lessons in survival. From staying away from snakes and scorpions to lapping up water from the moat at the right point to self-defence, young Dona is picking up all the tricks of the trade from her 13-year-old mother.
South African lion cubs Zoya, Salya and Ed, who learnt it the hard way in December what it means to toy with a deadly white cobra, did not have a tiger mom’s protective paw over their furry heads.
That’s the popular sentiment among visitors thronging Tata zoo who watch Dona and mentor-mom Shanti together.
“I try and catch up the duo at Tata zoo and watch the training session mostly in the afternoons. I love watching Dona gradually becoming a seasoned Royal Bengal Tiger. Supermom Shanti,” grinned Ashutosh Singh, a regular zoo visitor.
Disciplinarian Shanti nuzzles Dona, but does not spare mock fights and roars when she thinks her daughter is acting smart, playing truant by trying to climb trees.
“Dona is a quick learner and is attentive during the training sessions. She’s learning to stay away from snakes, scorpions and other poisonous insects that are regular visitors inside the enclosure. Shanti also takes Dona to the moat for drinking water. She is very particular about teaching Dona the correct place to chose,” a caretaker said.
Shanti also conducts her mommy sessions when her much-younger partner Raghav is not around. The magnificent mother-daughter pair is released into the enclosure four days a week while Raghav goes out for three days.
“We want Shanti to train her ward alone. We want her to focus on Dona as it is vital she picks up lessons while growing,” a caretaker said, adding the two were released between 10am and 3pm.
Vet Manik Palit said Dona was gradually picking up the ropes and becoming accustomed to the zoo environs.
“Shanti and Dona are together most of the time. The tigress is teaching her cub the dos and don’ts of the habitat. When Shanti spots something dangerous, she alerts Dona and teaches her how to stay away and protect herself. These are vital lessons for animals,” he added.
On daddy Raghav’s equation with his princess, a caretaker said the meetings were “occasional”.
“It is rare when all the three are released in the open. But Raghav is very fond of Dona and often tries to peek into her cell to see her. It’s quite natural,” he added.
Shanti, who abandoned her first cub, a male, after just 12 days of his birth in 2011-end, leading to his untimely death, is attached to her second-born Dona.
In their cell, both tumble over each other playfully. That’s when, unlike Amy Chua, this tiger mom relaxes her guard.