IDUKKI: With her hind legs paralysed and her vision failing her, Mangala was barely two months old when her mother abandoned her. It is the law of the jungle, mothers leaving their disabled cubs to fate. Fortunately for Mangala, who was weak, hungry and staring at her death, help came in the form of two forest guards on routine patrol. Two months on, under the watchful eyes of a veterinarian and two forest staff, the little cub is now slowly learning the ropes of life at the Periyar National Park in Thekkady.
It was on November 22 last year that a forest patrol team spotted a tiger cub crying for help in the deep jungles near the Mangaladevi temple at Thekkady, her scared eyes reflecting her pain. As the forest staff picked her up, they realised she would die if they leave her. Since the mother was nowhere to be found, the duo took her to the forest range office in Thekkady.
That was when Periyar East division forest deputy director Sunil Babu stepped in. Wanting to give her a chance at life, he roped in three veterinarians, Syama, Sibi and Nisha, who started nursing the cub back to life with the help of two forest guards.
The veterinarians gave her physiotherapy treatments to revive her legs and food supplements to help her gain strength. The cub, whom they named Mangala, has now grown to a size of 7.5kg. She has also gained significant strength on her hind legs.
“We want to help Mangala adapt to the wild when she returns. So we are grooming her in a proper forest atmosphere, away from humans. Only the doctor and two forest guards visit her,” said Sunil Babu. The official added that this was for the first time in India that a tiger cub rescued from the wild was being treated and groomed. “Only authorised persons have access to her shelter. Later, we will release her into a protected enclosure, where she will be trained to hunt,” he said.
Dr Anurag, the veterinarian currently attending to the four-month-old cub, says the work to establish a special enclosure in the forest for Mangala has already begun. There will be a pool, a shelter to rest in, and enough space for her to move around and acclimatise to the wild, he said. “We are also making her do daily exercises to rejuvenate her legs,” he said.
Mangala’s diet primarily consists of chicken, beef, and protein supplement twice a day, in addition to carrots for fibre, Anurag said. “She also has a tiger toy to play with. Once she turns six months old, we will have to shift her to the enclosure,” he added.According to range officer Akhil Babu, it is common for wild animals to abandon disabled cubs.
“Now that she has gained strength, we are grooming the cub with minimal human interaction to help her understand the ways of the wild. If she gets attached to humans, she will tend to live near human habitations after we release her. This will lead to conflict. We are training her as per the guidelines of the National Tiger Foundation,” the officer said.
The Forest department is planning to develop a 100-hectare enclosure in the Periyar sanctuary, where rescued animals will be released into. Mangala will be the first to learn hunting in the enclosure. Once she grows and gains enough strength, she will be released into the wild with a radio collar.