'Meri Maa...': Forest officials work overtime to reunite tiger cubs with mother in Nandyal

Forest officials tried to release cubs near the forest, but the tigress was nowhere to be seen.

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  8 March 2023 5:46 AM GMT
tiger cubs

Four tiger cubs rescued under Atmakur Division Forest, Nandyal. 

Nandyal: Atmakur Division Forest officials are working round the clock to reunite the four tiger cubs with their mother.

On Monday and Tuesday night, the officials tried to release the cubs near the forest so that they could be reunited with their mother. However, the attempts failed as the tigress was nowhere to be seen.

On March 6, a villager from Pedda Gummadapuram spotted tiger cubs when he was in the agricultural fields to attend a nature call. He, along with other villagers, caught them and kept them in a room. After receiving the information, Atmakur Divisional Forest Officer Alan Chong Teron and his team rushed to the spot and safely transported the tiger cubs. He said the four cubs were doing fine.

Atmakur NSTR Project Tiger Monitoring Committee said the tiger cubs are currently kept safe at Bairlooty Veterinary Care Centre and are being monitored by animal handlers and veterinarians from Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park, Tirupati.

Video Source: Instagram

Where is the mother?

"There are several possibilities. Sometimes to protect the cubs from other predators (wild dogs), it hides them in a far-off place. Sometimes, to save them from male tigers, the mother keeps them off their territory. Several other probabilities are also there,” DFO Nandyal Vineeth Kumar told NewsMeter,

There are chances of a male tiger eating their babies, which often happens. The tigress might have kept their babies safe and gone to the other side to divert the attention of other animals. It takes a few hours for the tigress to return to its babies. In the meantime, the cubs were found by the villagers.

Efforts to reunite:

Following all Standard Operating Procedures of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India, Forest Range Officer Mohhammed Hayyat of Bairlooty and his team laid 45 camera traps to track the movement of the mother tiger and reunite it with the cubs. Attempts were made for two nights to release the cubs' at a nearby location, but they couldn't find the tigress. As a result, the cubs returned.

A team of around 100 members are on the operation to reunite the cubs with the mother. The forest officials on Wednesday morning collected the memory card of the camera traps, and are analysing if the movements of tigress are found.

According to the sources, the officials are planning to shift the tiger cubs to Hyderabad or Tirupati Zoo until they are rehabilitated in the wild.

Chances for rejection:

Tiger Conservators believe these cubs shouldn't have been given a human touch. The four cubs, which are not more than two months old, only depend on the mother's milk. A lot of infections might also pass from humans to cubs. In this incident, cubs were handled by multiple people who also took selfies.

Villagers of Pedda Gummadapuram in Nandyal clicking photos of the tiger cub.

There are chances for a mother to reject after the cubs get a human touch. While the reuniting operation is a big task, the mother's behavior is much more crucial. There might be chances that the tigress could have returned to the place where it kept the babies and would become much more conscious of the fear of being traced.

"We are still trying to find the mother. All four cubs are doing good and are regularly offered the diet as suggested by veterinarians. Once the mother is located, we will try to get the cubs along with the mother. In case mother accepts well and good, otherwise, we will go for other options", said Nandyal DFO Vineeth Kumar.

What if the cubs were not spotted?

While everyone is talking about the tiger cubs rescued and kept safe, tiger conservators think the other way. "If the villagers had informed the forest officials about spotting the tiger cubs instead of holding them and bringing them into the village, the mother would have returned in a few hours and taken its babies. The mother might have been close by," said a tiger conservator.

According to the tiger conservators, early mornings are usually the time when tigers roam around. The mother could have kept them safe to divert the predators and might have come back to take its cubs.

One of tiger cub spotted by the villagers of Pedda Gummadapuram in Nandyal.

Nallamala- A home for tigers:

Nallamala forests are the aptest place for the tiger population to increase its progeny. The core area of the tiger reserve is 2,444 km. There are around 60-70 tigers crisscrossing the tiger corridor, extending over Kurnool, Kadapa, and Chittoor districts. Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) team from the National Tiger Conservation Authority evaluates tiger reserves every four years. As per official records, over the years, the population of tigers in NST is 74 in 2023.

2016-17: 46

2017-18: 46

2018-19: 47

2019-20: 63

Need for sensitization:

There is a need for sensitizing the locals about spotting tiger cubs. The cubs were spotted for the first time in Andhra Pradesh, "Villagers have done their bit by informing the department immediately. They were also afraid in case their mother was around. The department is taking all precautions so that the cubs are safe and villagers are also being made aware", said Vineeth Kumar.

According to the officials, the forest department is also doing a lot of work in light of growing negative human-wildlife interactions and tigers searching new territories.

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