Tiger cub gets hunting lessons from humans


For the first time in the country, the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) has taken up the training of a tiger cub to equip it to naturally hunt its prey in the forest environment.

The tiger cub was found abandoned inside the forests bordering Tamil Nadu on November 21. It was in a weak condition and medical care and food supplements were given to it in a nearby temporary shelter. While efforts were on to search for its mother, including in Tamil Nadu forests, the cub was monitored round the clock by a team led by two veterinary doctors.

Mother untraced

Slowly, the cub regained health. “Either its mother is dead or the cub was abandoned as it was not healthy,” Project Tiger field director Anoop K.R. said. “We wanted it to be with its mother,” he said. When that did not happen, it was decided to train the cub to hunt naturally in the wild. The training will go on for two years.

Carnivorous animals have a natural instinct for hunting and in Odisha, a domesticated tiger had disappeared into the forests and survived there, according to Mr. Anoop. “It eats meat now and 90% healthy,” PTR deputy director A.P. Sunilbabu told
The Hindu
.

Initially, it is being trained to hunt chicken. The training is given as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) guidelines. In a few days, it will be shifted to a new cage where it will not feel the presence of humans and will thus be free of human smell.

Normally, when a tiger cub is rescued from the forest, it is shifted to a zoo. However, the training in the PTR is designed to release the cub in the forests where it will have to hunt for survival. Unlike in other forests, the PTR has a large area of grasslands with herbivores. The chance of territorial conflicts for supremacy is also remote as it has a wide area. Reports of man-animal conflicts are rare in the buffer zone as fodder and water are available inside the PTR.

In 15 acres

Mr. Sunilbabu said nearly 15 acres of wild forest area had been marked and would be fenced off for the training. A caretaker would oversee the training and a doctor would monitor the health of the cub. When the tiger turns two, it will be released into the PTR. P.S. Essa, former director of Kerala Forest Research Institute and a wildlife expert, said the training would equip the cub to survive in the wild.

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