Saturday, 23 August 2008

Cathay Leaves Cubs, Hulooo Meets Younger Brothers

Cathay seemed to know what was happening this morning and did not need any convincing before she dashed into the 9 hectare camp, where TigerWoods was eagerly waiting. Having been apart for so long, the two showered each other with affection - chuffing, rubbing heads, hugging, chasing one another and more.We separated her from her cubs so Cathay could mate again in a few weeks and she can give birth in January - during the hottest time of the year, so we won't have to worry as much about cold weather interfering with rearing her babies and therefore also reducing human intervention. She could still see and interact with her cubs but the termination of suckling would make her come into oestrus again in a few weeks.
Cathay sniffed around the 9 hectare camp from which she had been absent for a long time. Cathay loves TigerWoods so much and had wanted to be with him for a while. In the past weeks, she got more and more impatient when the cubs disturbed her peace of being alone and often would get up and leave when the cubs drop themselves on top of her. Still, she is a fantastic mother and loves her cubs. After frolicking with TigerWoods for a while, she would go back to the commonly shared fence from time to time checking on her cubs. I am relieved that she seemed to be just checking to make sure her cubs were ok, instead of wanting to get back with them. I am torn as I just love to see them being together, but we had to do this for the big goal of the project.There were a lot of distractions for her besides TigerWoods. Once the potential threat by two Hadida birds to "take" the ostrich leg away (we had given to TigerWoods yesterday) made her rush to protect her food and she carried it into the dense trees next to the river.
Another important event was to take place today: we will put Hulooo in with his younger siblings - JenB and Jix, so Hulooo will acquire company and possibly also get re-accepted by Cathay in a few weeks. None of these had been attempted before so we must be both cautious but daring at the same time. It requires close monitoring, supervision and control. Thank Heavens Hulooo is so easy to work with and just followed our "directions" into the quarantine camp where he was going to meet the cubs physically at their home territory.
As soon as the iron sliding gate of the breeding center opened, the cubs dashed out of the breeding center to show Hulooo who are the boss! My concerns were gone when I saw it was Hulooo who was the weaker of them! JenB and his brother bared their teeth emitting threatening growls and rolled on the ground picking a fight with Hulooo. Poor Hulooo! His only resort was to avoid them. From time to time Hulooo would come to his human parents giving us a cuddle or a rub, as if to receive some courage in order to face those menacing cubs, or to beg us get him out of here and away from the cubs.
The cubs would not let Hulooo alone and followed him wherever he went. They roared menacing roars at Hulooo who would just lower his head as if showing submission. Cathay came over to check what was happening and cubs only remembered her absence when she showed up. Cathay seemed to be satisfied that the cubs were not alone and would disappear again after her regular checking.
Hulooo seemed to have fallen in love with the same pole of the pole shelter, just like the other adult tigers, and rubbed affectionately against it, hugging and smelling it (we always wondered what it is about that section of the log!)... To avoid the growling JenB, he even developed affection for another pole just opposite the usual one. After a while, he even ignored the menacing growls and continued with his love affaires with the wooden poles almost oblivious of the bullying growls.
JenB was the one that carried his threat through by trailing Hulooo whereas Jix went to follow Cathay and continued following her from his side of the fence whenever Cathay showed up. However the cubs in general seemed to forget Cathay's absence as long as she was out of their sight. Cathay, as if not to arouse further attention from her cubs, would quietly slip away into the trees after making sure her cubs were in good hands. It seemed that having Hulooo around also occupied the cubs' minds so they did not whine about their mother being on the other side of the fence too much.
Hulooo discovered the smells of the other tigers on one of the tree trunks. The Amazing thing he did was to "spray" it too. Funny that he was not yet mature so the "spray" that came out of him was not the normal transparent white sticky matter, but rather his Pee, which shot horizontally across onto the tree trunk. It is incredible that at this tender age he knew to cover the other tigers' smells.
Things were going well as the cubs and their older brother getting more used to one another. The day was getting hot-time for the tigers to have naps. So I decided to rather leave Hulooo in the cub’s camp and Vivienne and I would monitor them alternately. Hulooo just wanted someone around, preferably human. So I decided to go away a bit around at one stage and see what would happen. While I had walked "away", suddenly, I heard roars and commotion coming out of the far corner of the Quarantine camp where several other camps meet. I ran close and saw Hulooo being bullied and even pawed at by the cubs. Hulooo had probably wanted their company and had gone over to the cubs when he saw me going away... He seemed a lost soul being also shocked by the electric wires a couple of times as well. Both Cathay, who had been lying in the shade on the other side of the fence and Madonna who came out to investigate the commotion, watched with interests.
I called Hulooo's name out, and he saw me and quickly ran across the camp towards me. He came into the breeding center, where he chuffed at me non-stop, grateful I was back! I had no doubt he would have hugged me if I were inside with her, wanting consolation. Thereafter, no matter how I called him to come out, he wouldn't, fearful of the bullies. After a while, he would only come out briefly and chuff at me, but returning inside the Breeding Center immediately as if that his refuge.
Hulooo was enticed out of the breeding center in late afternoon, to spend more time with his younger brothers. JenB, though growling on the one hand, actually wanted to play with Hulooo. He tried to stalk Hulooo and even reached out to grab Hulooo's hind leg to play. However, it is apparent to us now that Hulooo, having only played with humans, has no idea how to play with other tigers. He was so scared of his little brothers, while he was four times their size. It will be one of our main tasks to get Hulooo re-socialized as a tiger and learn to interact with other tigers.
Low and behold, Hulooo did demonstrate he was a tiger when it came to food! When two pieces of wildebeest meat were brought in, Hulooo embarked on eating his immediately. However, when he saw, from the corner of his eyes, another nice chunk being eaten by his brothers, he ran over to it in a lightening speed and grabbed the meat, pawing one of the cubs and escaped. His speed took his brothers by surprise to say the least. However, he forgot the other piece of meat, which was promptly stolen by JenB. Before we knew it, Hulooo staged another coup - he ran over to JenB and stole his meat back, carrying it to where the other piece of meat was lay, wanting to monopolize both. We scolded him, and picked up the second piece of meat to give to JenB, who carried it between the Pole shelter and the tree trunk next to it. Jix tried to use the same trick on Hulooo to get his meat, but Hulooo was on good guard. Jix went to JenB, only to be growled at. JenB did not know how to protect his meat from being stolen by his brother and tried all he could: lying on top, hugging it, dragging it to the top of the tree trunk, etc. But Jix would not give up and managed to grab hold of one end of the meat.
Hulooo had finished his food in no time and sneaked up to the cubs, wanting to also steal theirs again. We had to stop him and he seemed to know he was behaving badly, showering us with head rubs. JenB finally let go the food and let Jix have his way. He went to look for Hulooo. He was part playful and part threatening. Hulooo just did not know what to do. How I wished he would just play with his brother as if he was playing with us! How I was afraid he might become another 327 when he grew up! Hulooo seemed to improve a bit at one point, lying down on the ground just like JenB, growling - the right way of facing it. However his nerves wavered very soon and he would go away again. He went inside the breeding center, but JenB followed and continued growling at Hulooo. Hulooo sniffed around other sections of the breeding center, but I am not sure if it was out of curiosity or just pretending to find something to do.
The sun was setting and I thought Hulooo had enough today and we started calling him to get out of breeding center so we could take him back to his Tree camp. Hulooo was eager to get out but the terrorist JenB was guarding the gate. Hulooo paced inside not knowing want to do. He tried another time, only to be bullied back inside again by JenB. We continued to call Hulooo, who became more and more anxious that he eventually threw himself down on the floor and cried in a helpless voice. It was both comical to see him terrorized by a little cub and heart breaking to see him cry like that. We continued to encourage him: "Hulooo, Hulooo, come on! Get out! Don't be bullied." Hulooo understood. He got up and in a determined stride, walked past the growling JenB, who suddenly stopped growling, probably perplexed by Hulooo's courage. Hulooo needed a cuddle as consolation, and was rewarded with it. He ran back to his little tree camp with excitement. He is such a sweet natured cat but now it is time we build him up as a tiger.

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