Love is in the air. Sometimes walking together, sometimes caressing each other, Rishi and Payel are bonding.
This has given hope to Alipore Zoo authorities for captive breeding of tigers which eluded them for a decade. 12-year-old tiger, Rishi, and a seven-year-old tigress, Payel were brought from Nandankanan Zoo in February this year, are showing signs of liking each other.
“Now, after so many months, there is reason for hope as they are showing signs of bonding,” Ashish Kumar Samanta, director of Alipore zoo, said.
After a gap of years, the Alipore zoo authorities have since 2014 restarted the process of breeding tigers in captivity. But in spite of their best efforts, the zoo authorities did not get the desired results. Things, however, changed recently with a tiger and a tigress taking a liking to each other, giving zoo officials hope that they might mate.
Before this effort, the breeding of tigers in the zoo had happened in 2005, almost a decade ago. In 2014, the zoo authorities had tried to get a tiger, Vishal, to mate with a tigress, Tista, after the technical committee of the State Zoo Authority approved the proposal that was forwarded by the zoo authorities. But the effort was not fruitful.
Then, the authorities tried to pair Vishal with another tigress, Rupa, who was kept in an enclosure next to the former. But the two did not like or bond with one another. In fact, of the three tigers and four tigresses, no two animals from different sexes bonded with each other.
But now, things have changed and zoo authorities are hopeful again since a pair – 12-year-old tiger, Rishi, and a seven-year-old tigress, Payel, are showing signs of bonding with each other.
The Alipore Zoo had brought four tigers — two males and two females — from Nandankanan in February this year. And from the very beginning, the zoo officials decided to keep Rishi and Payel side by side.
The other two tigers (two-and-a-half-year-old Snehasish and three-year-old Shila) are very young. Therefore, no effort has been made till date to get them to mate, explained the director.
Samanta added that the zoo staff is excited to see the signs of Rishi and Payel liking each other. Chances are bright that they will mate since they have not rejected each other, the zoo director said.
A lot of technicalities are involved in breeding of tigers, especially, if the breeding takes place in captivity, said sources at the zoo. Since tigers are solitary animals, they like being alone, and it is really tough to bring a tiger and a tigress close to each other. There is also a risk in keeping two tigers — a male and a female — in the same enclosure, sources said.
In order to make them breed, they need to be kept beside each other in different enclosures so that they can see each other. One has to induce friendship among them. If they like each other, there is a possibility that they will mate and the breeding process will be successful, sources add.