A caretaker will lead the training and a doctor will monitor the health condition of the cub.
For the first time in the country, the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is training a tiger cub to naturally hunt its prey in the forest environment. It was a chance endowed with the officials of PTR when the tiger cub was found abandoned inside the forest on border with Tamil Nadu on November 21. The cub was in a weak condition and medical care and food supplements were given to it in a temporary shelter near to the place where it was sighted.
While the efforts were on to search for the cub’s mother including the Tamil Nadu forest area, the cub was monitored 24 hours by a team led by two veterinary doctors.
Slowly, the tiger cub recovered and retained its health and the story of its mother remained unclear. “Either the mother is dead or the cub was abandoned as it was not healthy,” said Project Tiger field director Anoop K.R. “Our first preference was to make it join the mother,” he said, adding that it did not work out. So then it was decided to give it training for naturally hunting in the forest. It is a training extended to two years period viz-a-viz widening the wild forest area for it.
The carnivorous animals have a natural instinct for hunting and in Odisha, a domesticated tiger had disappeared in the forest and survived there, according to Mr. Anoop.
“It takes meat now and 90 % of its health is recovered,” PTR deputy director A.P. Sunilbabu told The Hindu.
Initially it is given training to hunt chicken and slowly it will be moved to an environment where human presence is not felt. The care and training to the cub is given as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) guidelines. There is also a chance to get the human smell and in a few days, it is seperated to a new cage where it does not feel the presence of a human being.
Normally, when a tiger cub is rescued from the forest, it is shifted to a zoo. However, the training in PTR was designed to release it inside the wild forest where it can naturally hunt its prey. Unlike in other forests, PTR has a large area of green grasslands with herbivores. The chance of territorial conflicts for supremacy is also remote as it has a wide area. The reports of man-animal conflict is rare in the buffer zone as fodder and water is available inside the PTR.
Mr. Sunilbabu said that nearly 15 acre wild forest area is marked and it will be fenced and the training is given there. A caretaker will lead the training and a doctor will monitor the health condition of the cub.
When the tiger reaches two years age, it will be released into the PTR. P.S. Essa, former director of Kerala Forest Research Institute and wildlife expert, said that the training will enable the cub to hunt its prey and the PTR has all the potential for it.