There were a lot of noises this morning. We put the cubs all together again and Hulooo did not give his little brothers any chance before he caught a guinea fowl. We also had to fix the corner of the quarantine camp with chicken wires etc. Suddenly, we heard baby tiger cries again. I saw Madonna standing next to the trees where she normally hides her cubs. Then, she carefully picked one up in her mouth and started walking with caution. She was moving one of her cubs! I asked staff to quickly leave the camps since she was clearly feeling unsafe again.
Hulooo whined the whole day wanting to be together with humans. It is for his own good that we limit contact with him. JenB tried sneaking close to Hulooo a couple of times, being very friendly and lying calmly next to Hulooo. However when he touched Hulooo in a playful act, he got roared at by Hulooo. I feel so bad for little JenB who has now accepted Hulooo but Hulooo still thinks we are his only playmate - problem of being the lone cub without any other tiger to play with! It will be quite a while for Hulooo to learn to play with his kind but we must try!
Aug 26, 2008 - Scary Sight - Madonna Pacing with Baby Tiger in Mouth!
It was so cold this morning when I stepped out of the door that I immediately worried about Madonna. It was minus 6 last night - the coldest since Madonna gave birth. I arrived at the camps around 7.30am, and Vivienne reported bad news. For the past 10 minutes since she and Yolande (our new hire) got here, Madonna had been pacing with a cub in her mouth. She was not sure if the cub is live or dead.
My heart dropped. This is what I was dreading! Cathay did that - pacing with her cub in her mouth when she felt unsettled. I had a look through my binoculars - she was far, but it looked like the cub was curled up. If it were dead it would normally be limp. What about the other cub, if there was another?
I am torn and on the one hand wanted to intervene. But on the other hand, felt like this is a step that many supporters expect us to take. There are always risks and we have to take this risk. In the wild, normally only one out of a litter of tiger cubs survive. We have to take this risk.
I asked staff to leave the camps immediately, trying to leave her alone. I went to a hill where one could have a view of some sections of her camp. It pains me to see her pacing with the cub. All the other tigers, Cathay, TigerWoods and 327 were watching her from their side of the camp. My heart went out for Madonna and I wish I knew why she was doing this. Then I decided to have Cathay and TigerWoods enticed into the half hectare camp, so they won't be watching Madonna. Cathay has been doing well, with no signs of mastitis, which is an infection developed in suckling mothers who have too much milk.
TigerWoods came to the half hectare very quickly, knowing some food must be waiting for him. But Cathay did not come for a long time. Our predator whistle which is supposed to imitate the distress calls of prey animals and normally attracts the attention of predators also did not work. It took quite a bit of persuasion by Vivienne and Yolande with piece of meat to get her come to the half hectare camp.
Thank heavens Madonna was not seen pacing any more after 9:45 or so. I asked all staff to leave the site and not to return until two hours later for a remote check, in order to leave Madonna quiet and peace.
I was pleased that during late afternoon monitoring, when Madonna came out to feed and stroll, baby cries were heard again.
Is that one baby tiger or two baby tigers?
Aug 27, 2008 - Madonna Sunning with Baby
What a sight! Through binoculars, I saw Madonna lying under her favourite big tree sunning, with a baby tiger.
I quickly left in order not to disturb her, even though I relished this scene so much and wanted so much to have a better look.
Hulooo is still scared of his young brothers and would growl if they tried to play with him, but he seemed to be getting along better with the cubs, sleeping under the same pole shelter during the day. Unfortunately, we must harden our heart to not to succumb to his begging whines to play with us.
Aug 28, 2008 - Mystery Solved
It has been 10 days since Madonna gave birth and I have been looking forward to today. The first 10 days were crucial for the cubs' survival so we made a rule to not to disturb Madonna to decrease the chance of her abandoning her babies. I had been dying to know how many there are and their gender but I had to refrain myself from interfering, however painful it may be!
Today their danger period passed, I anxiously waited for the late afternoon feeding time for the tigers. We planned to go into her maternity camp - over one hectare in size and check on the details of her baby tigers when she would be eating.
I had everything prepared: drawing Madonna's attention to other things so she would not pay attention to us entering her camp; feeding her less the previous day so she would spend more time and focusing more on eating today; clean towels for touching the babies when checking on their gender so no human smells would be left on them; etc etc etc.
All went according to my plan. Johnny and Yolande were left next to the feeding camp so Madonna would not pay attention to me and Vivienne. We used another gate in the far end, next to 327's camp to enter Madonna's camp.
My heart was racing, even though I treaded carefully in the grass and bushes, fending off thorned branches, while all the time trying to select a route that had trees as shield from the sight of Madonna.
I briefly checked the bush where we saw her through the branches some days ago and there was nothing. We continued to the big tree where I believed the babies should be. That was also approximately the direction I saw her disappearing into when she was about to give birth; that was also where I observed her diving into through my binoculars while I was spying behind a bush. That was also where I saw her sunning under the tree yesterday morning.
I had a sense of guilt, as if I were about to steal Madonna's babies from her. I could hardly breathe. My legs felt heavy and it seemed such a long trek to me. But finally we managed to walk to that area without any accidents, neither tripping over nor gotten bitten by thorns. I was convinced that the cubs would be in the ditch under the big tree.
But there were nothing in that part of the ditch under the tree! I was worried - did Madonna know what was going to happen and had moved her cubs? She did seem more impatient today when we were opening the gate to let her into the feeding camp. I looked around over the ditch and still saw nothing.
"Oh there!", Vivienne hushed. I looked up, and to my great joy, I saw there are two (our guess was right) little baby tigers - curled up on the bank of the ditch, both very much alive!
I was overjoyed! So many worries, so many sleepless nights, since the day she lost her first litter of cubs. So much preparation, so many repeated instructions that I was fearful my staff regards me as a paranoid old woman! So many phone calls and so much advice I sought, that I was fearful of imposing on people! And so much help and so many standby supports I have enlisted, to prepare for every eventuality! However, Madonna defied my underestimation of her and proved me wrong - that she could bring up her own little baby tigers, the second time round!
I battled to overcome my emotions and stayed calm, while taking a few quick photos of the cubs. The cubs gave me silent hisses to protest my intrusion but without loud cries, which would attract attention to them from their enemies. They were just adorable and I felt so privileged to see them.
Now time to check their gender! All previous births were boys, how I and our supporters had been praying for girl cubs! We used clean towel to carefully part the leg of the first cub - a boy! My heart stopped beating... Now the second cub, but it was crouching so I could not turn it around. I picked it up using our towel and saw, to my great relief and excitement, it is a baby girl!
I felt like crying out, but I never cry...
We laid down the cub and they calmed down quickly as soon as we distanced ourselves by a couple of meters. I took a few more photos and quickly left by the route we came.
We went back to the camp where Madonna was feeding, still frenzily, as if nothing had happened. She was calm and I am relieved, thinking our escapade had escaped her notice. But Johnny said that she saw us going in (as quiet as we were!) but did not seem to mind. Funny! So maybe she wanted me to check? Maybe that was why she was pacing with a cub in her mouth the other day? After all, she has a special bond with me... Maybe maybe..
But History had been made!