Three tiny furballs now hold the success of India's tiger conservation in their tiny paws.
The newborn tiger cubs, spotted on Friday in Madhya Pradesh's Panna national park, herald the success of the controversial plan of relocating the big cats.
A survey last year found that the once-densely populated Panna reserve had lost all its tiger, mostly to poaching. In an effort to repopulate the park, a tigress from Bandhavgarh in Karnataka and a tiger from Pench in MP were moved to Panna.
"On Friday night, we spotted the three cubs with the tigress as they came out of a cave. The tigress apparently had decided to shift her cubs to a more suitable place," an ecstatic Panna National Park Field Director R Sreeniwas Murthy said.
Forest officials again got a clear sighting of the new family the next day — the mother and all three cubs.
Murthy said this was the first instance of a relocated tigress giving birth to healthy cubs.
Earlier, forest department officials had an inkling that the tigress was pregnant because it was not moving out of the cave near a waterfall for more than a month.
The department was keeping a close eye on her movements.
"We got it confirmed on Friday night and have prohibited tourist from visiting the area," Murthy said.
The Panna Tiger Reserve was found to have 24 tigers after the census in January 2006. But by December 2008 all the tigers were gone.
A tiger and a tigress moved from Ranthambore to Sariska in 2008 failed to breed.