The cub, which was taken in by CWRC, will be transported to Raipur’s Nandan Van in a special cage
It was a calm evening on 21 October 2011, when Dr Nupur Buragohain, a veterinarian at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) near Kaziranga National Park in Assam, got an emergency rescue call from the Forest Department. A female tiger cub was found by forest guards, and was picked up to avert chances of predation earlier that day while patrolling in Burapahar Range of the park. It was very weak and dehydrated.
“When we reached the spot we gave it life-saving drugs. We brought it to our centre and did the emergency treatment. Our intention was to stabilise it and try for reunion to its mother,” recalled Dr Buragohain. Next day, the cub was taken to the same spot and left for its mother to come searching for it. “We made various attempts to reunite the cub with its mother for the following four days by keeping it in a make-shift shelter at the site where the cub was found. Five camera traps were deployed to record any movement of animals around the shelter where the cub was kept overnight. Though some tiger movements were recorded in the vicinity by the camera traps, none was recorded near the make-shift cage,” Dr Buragohain added. So the decision was taken to bring it to the CWRC, one of its kind animal rehabilitation and rescue centre in the nation that has been in service for 10 years and was hand-raised.
The female tiger cub is now 11 months old; hand-raised at CRWC and has found a new home as well—the famous Nandan Zoo at Raipur in Chhattisgarh. On Friday, 31 August, the cub started its journey from CRWC to Nandan, ushering another milestone in animal conservation when debates continue to rage across the nation over the Supreme Court’s ban on tourism in Tiger reserves.
“We are happy for her that she is alive and that she is getting a new home. But we will miss her. She was a cute cub, a naughty kid. She was very good at playing pranks. She would often play around in her enclosure. Tigers usually love water. So when she was given a bath, she would initially stay away from the bucket. When her keeper would approach her, she would suddenly jump into the bucket and splash water on her keeper and run away,” recalled Dr Reetika Maheshwari, another veterinarian at CWRC who helped raise the cub.
CWRC, run by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with the help of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has till now rescued and rehabilitated 1,600 animals including tigers, rhinos and elephants from the wild. “Rehabilitation of hand-raised tigers is not popular in India as there are reports of the released tiger losing fear of humans,” told Dr NVK Ashraf, Chief Veterinarian, WTI, to reporters on the sidelines of the ceremonial send off of the cub. “Raipur Zoo expressed their interest to have the cub and they formally sent a letter through CZA (Central Zoo Authority) following which we arranged for the transfer of the cub.”
But this is not for the first time that a hand-raised cub from CWRC is finding a new home. In 2011, a male adult tiger named Vivek was sent to the Van Vihar Zoo in Bhopal. Vivek is expected to contribute to the National Tiger Conservation Breeding programme in Van Vihar. The 2100-km journey from CWRC to Nandan Van Zoo, which started this afternoon, will be completed in four days. “The tiger has been confined in a specially-designed crate and is on its way to Guwahati by road. It will spend the night in Assam State Zoo and will be transported to Raipur by train,” said Dr Rathin Barman, Advisor, WTI.
As the little tigress was put in a special cage for its journey to Raipur, its keeper Laxmiram Das waved her goodbye, tears welling up in his eyes, “I will keep the feeding bottle I used to feed her milk with me. This is her memory. She will remain special for me,” he said.
Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.