Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Microchipping Drama -Never Underestimate the Power of an Angry Tiger

Amid much progress and excitement with our new initiatives, I arrived back at Laohu Valley last night. Hulooo and brothers greeted me in Tiger's Roar Camp. Hulooo, though still welcoming, seemed not as attached to humans as before, which is a good sign. He is either reaching adolescent rebellious age, just like a human teen, or life in the wild is finally turning him into a real tiger.

They were put into Tigers Roars only last night, so I was surprised to see all three of them with faint blood stains on their ruff, and a bit on their legs. They were still licking them off. A kill or two must have been made overnight! We were able to find out later they made one kill, since 28 blesbok remained out of the 29 we had yesterday , but we will not know who was the hero of the pack although we all speculated that Coco would be the one. Never underestimate the others, I said to myself, as Madonna turned out to be hunting "secretly" while we all marvelled at TigerWoods' remarkable abilities when they were young!

King Henry and Princess were separated from mom this morning and were kept in Riverine Camp, in anticipation of their microchipping this afternoon by the Vet Dr. Joseph Van Heerden. This would be a second attempt as the first attempt to microchip them failed when they were two months old. Madonna and cubs had done remarkly well in the past month and made 10 kills in one month while in Tigers Roars and supported themselves completely on their own. We had to buy new game to replensh the stock last week. At this rate, the young tigers will all become proficient hunters in no time!

Joseph arrived before 2pm and checked on King Henry and Princess to estimate their weight. It is important to have as accurate an estimate as possible to apply the right amount of medicine. Joseph is a very cautious vet, and I wrote before how impressed I was with him as he was very cautious in terms of drugs and dosage. The first one to get the dart was King Henry. He dropped down after 10 minutes but as soon as the Vet poked him with a stick to see if he had fallen asleep, he jumped up and ran off. He struggled to stay up walking away but sleep overcame him again. The Vet decided to give him another dose of sedatives. This time he fell asleep just enough for the vet to microchip him but did not give us enough time to apply antidote before he suddenly woke up and stumbled off again. Joseph eventually managed to catch up with him and apply half a dose of antidote to KH but gave up after a bit of chase and decided to let him wake up on his own, which could take quite a while. Fortunately, KH fell into slumber again later and gave the vet opportunty to apply the leftover antidote.

The Vet then prepared sedatives for Princess who, having seen her brother fall, became totally wild. She ran around the fenceline while the vet was about to shoot the dart. But her next move was beyond anyone's imagination! Just when we were turning the vehicle around, we suddenly saw this flash of orange fur flying through the gate separating Catkins Camp and Princes ran off into the trees on the other side of the fence!! How on earth she did that we did not know. We drove to the gate and saw the wires of the gate were split wide open. Microchipping seemed to be always full of drama. We had JenB climbing up the electric fence during their microchipping last year; not mentioning King Henry and Princess couldn't be caught the first time when we tried microchipping; and now we have Princess going through fence! One can never overestimate the difficulties enough in these kinds of vetinary undertakings!

Having now given up the microchipping of Princess, we moved to Cathay, planning to take up the long-dead radio-collar off her. After all that difficulties with the young cubs, we were very anxiuous. However, Cathay was indeed a worldly tiger, and came to the fence to greet us. The whole darting, de-collaring and antidote applying process went smoothly, much to our relief, to compensate for the troubles we had with King Henry and Princess.

We did not complete our tasks fully today, but we learned a big lesson, that no fence is a guarantee of protection when faced with an angry tiger! We now have to leave Princess's microchipping for some time in the future, once more!

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