After the death of eight tigers in six months, the Delhi zoo plans to cross-breed white tigers with Royal Bengal Tigers. The deaths included the zoo’s last Royal Bengal Tiger.
Of the eight deaths, three were still-born cubs over the past two days - two on Monday and one on Tuesday - causing septicemia threat to their mother, a white tigress.
Explaining the painful episode of losing three cubs, zoo curator (education) Riaz Khan said: “After the two cubs were born dead, the tigress showed signs of distress. She turned non-cooperative and finally after hours of struggle, the third cub, which had died inside her womb, was taken out.”
The zoo lost a Royal Bengal tigress on June 5 (21 years), a Royal Bengal tiger on May 27 (20 years), two infant white tiger cubs in February and a Royal Bengal tiger in December 2012 (20 years).
Now, just three female Royal Bengal tigresses along with two male and five female white tigers remain. Incidentally, the Delhi zoo is one of the tiger conservation centres of the Central Zoo Authority.
The adult tigers that died during these months were all mature cats. The general life span of tigers is between 18 and 20 years.
“With no male Royal Bengal tiger left, we now plan to cross-breed the female of this species with white tigers. We have already started preparing new enclosures for it,” Khan said.
Central Zoo Authority member secretary BS Bonal cited another option. “The zoo can get a pure-bred tiger rescued from the wild from another zoo,” he said.
He said there was nothing to worry about as the tigers had died a natural death. But a member of zoo’s advisory committee felt there was scope for improvement.
“The zoo needs more veterinarians and the zoo hospital needs immediate improvement. For instance, blood analysers are not functional and need replacement,” said Himanshu Malhotra, an environmentalist and a wildlife filmmaker.