Three tiger cubs abandoned by mother found at Bandipur
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Three tiger cubs abandoned by mother found at Bandipur

March 29, 2021

Two die, another cub being treated at Mysuru Zoo

Mysuru: Three tiger cubs, aged about two months, which were abandoned by their mother have been traced near Nugu in Bandipur Tiger Reserve on Sunday afternoon. Of the three cubs, two died of hunger and dehydration and the other cub has been brought to Mysuru Zoo for treatment, where it is recovering.

About a week back, Forest staff had spotted three tiger cubs at Nugu Range. After confirming that the mother tiger was not seen anywhere in the surroundings, the Forest staff informed their higher authorities. Though the Forest staff began the combing operation to trace the mother and reunite the cubs with it, they were unable to trace the mother tiger.

Dehydrated tiger cubs found lying amidst bushes by the Forest staff near Nugu in Bandipur Tiger Reserve yesterday afternoon.
Dehydrated tiger cubs found lying amidst bushes by the Forest staff near Nugu in Bandipur Tiger Reserve yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon, the Forest staff found a dehydrated tiger cub lying below a bush and immediately provided it with water but the cub died. The Forest staff immediately informed their higher ups and sought permission to trace the other two cubs. After getting permission, the Forest staff began their operation and found the two cubs lying exhausted under a bush. They immediately provided water to the two cubs and by evening, the cubs were brought to Mysuru Zoo by Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Ravikumar  for treatment.

Though the Zoo Veterinarians began providing treatment, one tiger cub died and the other began to respond to the treatment and sources in the Zoo said that the tiger cub consumed chicken mince meat yesterday night and is showing signs of recovery.

One of the three cubs which died when Forest staff tried to feed water. Picture right shows pug marks found during combing operation

One more cub with mother

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The tigress had given birth to four cubs about two months back and for one-and-a-month, the mother and her cubs were moving together. But suddenly, the mother abandoned three of her cubs and has taken one cub with her. The mother taking just one cub with her came to be known through the pug marks found by the Forest staff during combing operation.

Why mother abandons her cubs

There are many reasons for a tigress to abandon her cubs. If an infant is weak, small or defective, mothers will instinctively abandon or cull the animal to concentrate their resources on the stronger babies that stand a greater chance of surviving. 

One theory found in scientific literature on parental infanticide suggests it’s part of “normal’’ maternal behaviour where a female can adjust her litter size to suit her ability to raise offspring. 

In this case of the tigress abandoning her cubs, the two cubs which were brought to the Zoo was infested with ticks, which may have resulted in the cubs becoming weak with fluctuating health conditions. This has given rise to suspicion that the tigress may have abandoned the weak cubs and took only the healthy cub with her. Another suspicion is that the tigress may have suffered injuries or unable to hunt and feed her cubs.

Meanwhile, the Forest Department staff is making all efforts to trace the tigress and the cub with her. The Forest personnel have tied a sheep as bait where the pug marks of the tigress and the cub was found, to lure the tigress. 

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Staff has been deployed during night also to trace the tigress.

This for the first time that the Forest staff at Bandipur has come across a tigress abandoning the cubs. 

Five years ago, three cubs were abandoned by a tigress at Nagarahole Reserve Forest out of which two had died and the other disappeared mysteriously. 

Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director S.R. Natesha, Hediyala ACF Ravikumar, Wildlife Warden Kruthika Alanahalli, Nugu Range Forest Officer (RFO) Geetha Nayak, Veterinarian Dr. Mujeen Rehaman, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) representative R. Raghuram and others inspected the spot.

A Forest Department team led by ACF Sumeetkumar, Subashrao Patil and Hediyala RFO Manjunath are continuing the combing operation to trace the tigress and the cub.

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