THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : It took a battalion of animal keepers to lift the yellow cage that arrived from Delhi. The animal inside, a white tiger, weighed more than 200 kilograms. ‘’White tigers weigh more than orange tigers,’’ Thiruvananthapuram zoo veterinarian Dr Jacob Alexander explained later. On Monday, the animal had been brought to the city zoo, ahead of schedule.
The team from the zoo, which consisted of three keepers, a supervisor, zoo superintendent Sadasivan Pillai and the veterinarian, had left for Delhi with a male jaguar on October 15. ‘’We arrived at the Nehru Zoological Park in Delhi on October 20. We departed with the white tiger on October 22,’’ said Sadasivan Pillai.
Museums and Zoos Director B Joseph said that a team will now head to Lucknow to bring swamp deers. The transfer will take place before winter intensifies.
The zoo veterinarian said that the white tiger required special care as it was a heavily inbred animal and is therefore prone to diseases. Earlier, white tigers would be forced to mate with another white tiger, usually of the same family, to ensure that the offspring is also a white tiger. The practice was stopped after genetic issues were reported in Delhi’s white tigers.
The journey was peaceful, according to the keepers who travelled with the tiger. One of them, Thulasidharan said:“Malar is a very well-behaved and obedient tiger. We have been joking about feeding her with our hands, petting her back and how she would sleep like a baby if we sing lullabies.’’
Though there are no official quarantine instructions, the tiger will be kept in an enclosure for a month or more.
‘’The exhibit area, into which it will be moved, has been reinforced with closely spaced steel bars, so that mongoose cannot enter it,’’ says P Salila Kumari, PWD overseer.
Raman, the keeper who is in charge of tigers, was not part of the team which went to Delhi as the other tigers could not be left to the care of anyone else. There was a plan to include Rajesh, the keeper in charge of lions, into the team. But he had to stay back as Aishwarya, a lioness in the zoo, was pregnant.
The lioness, which had earlier accidentally killed its cub while trying to lift it by its scruff, gave birth to a cub on Saturday. The two are being monitored on the camera, as any human intervention might just cause the mother to reject its baby.
Since it was a holiday, the only people to greet the animal were zoo staff and media personnel. As the former stood in silent reverence, the latter darted around the white tiger enclosure, shooting and clicking away.
A leopard, in the exhibit area which is closest to the commotion, looked unruffled while two male tigers Manu and Kiran paced up and down.