A tigress is said to have abandoned her four cubs in the Nugu range of Bandipur National Park, likely driven by hunger and an inability to feed her cubs due to low prey in the zone. Three of the cubs have died, while one is being treated at the Mysore Zoo. While two of the cubs were found dead by forest officials in the Nugu range on Sunday and Monday, another died while undergoing treatment at the zoo. The male cub is responding well to treatment, Bandipur National Park Director Natesh said.
On Sunday morning, Nugu Range Forest Officer Geeta Naik alerted Natesh that the tiger cubs abandoned by their mother had been noticed in her range and sought action to rescue the cubs. At around 10.30 am, wildlife veterinarian Mujib-Ur-Rahaman arrived at the spot and took stock of the situation before working to rescue the abandoned cubs.
Mujib-Ur-Rahman said that they initially discovered three cubs â€” two female cubs and a male cub â€” in a bush at Nugu range. â€śThese tiger cubs were exhausted and infected by ticks,â€ť he said. One of the three tiger cubs in a bush was dead, and was later revealed to have died from starvation. â€śAt the time of rescue, two cubs were weak and without food and water,â€ť pointed out Mujib-Ur-Rahman.
Immediately, Mujib rescued the two other tiger cubs from the bush. After he administered water and lactogen to the rescued tiger cubs, they were shifted to Mysore Zoo. But one of the cubs also died at Mysore Zoo while undergoing treatment on Monday.
A fourth cub was found dead in the same range on Monday. The three cubs that died were all females, while the surviving cub is male.
Two cubs were transported to Mysore Zoo but one died on Monday.
According to Mujib, the tigress might have abandoned four cubs after she could no longer feed them. The location in which tiger cubs were rescued, Mujib observed, was an area with little prey density, making hunting difficult for the tiger.
As per experts, normally a tiger needs to hunt down a larger prey once in a week for it to sustain in the wild, while a mother needs to hunt regularly to feed her cubs.
Incidents of tigresses leaving their cubs in the wild have been reported in Nagarahole National Park in DB Kuppe in 2016 and Metikuppe range in 2015, while a case of two tiger cubs orphaned after their mother was poisoned was reported in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in November 2020. The two tiger cubs were rescued by forest officials and shifted them to Madras Zoo.
A wildlife conservationist said, â€śIt is natural for tigers to abandon weak cubs.â€ť He also stated that when the mother goes hunting, cubs are hidden in a den away from natural enemies such as leopards, dholes among others. But sometimes, cubs get separated from their mother while trying to escape from leopards or other natural enemies. He also observed that strong cubs follow their mother but weak cubs are often unable to cope.
One cub survived and is being treated at the zoo.
Sources in Bandipur stated that patrolling personnel had sighted a mother and four cubs about a month ago in Nugu range, though it is unclear whether this is the same family as the abandoned cubs. The tigress is said to have abandoned the cubs about 10 days ago, and it is suspected that the healthy tiger cub might have accompanied the tigress.
When contacted, Bandipur National Park director Natesh told TNM that there is no direct confirmation of a tigress roaming the vicinity of Nugu with her cub. The wildlife conservationist also stated that there is no evidence to establish that tigress and a cub in the vicinity is the mother of the abandoned cubs.
However, Madikeri former honorary wildlife warden KN Madappa (Bose Madappa) observed that a tigress does not leave her cubs unattended for too long and keeps her cubs with her for about a year and a half. In the case of Nugu, the tigress might have not returned to her cubs as there is a chance she has been killed.
Girisha is a freelancer who writes on wildlife and forests.