Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Storms & Sadness Strike Laohu

I am very sad to report that 327 and Cathay's new cub may be gone.

Heavy thunderstorm hit Laohu Valley yesterday afternoon. While feeding Cathay, tiger supervisor Vivienne heard a sudden yelp from the cub, as if it were in pain. Cathay dashed back to the trees and didn't come out at night. This morning Cathay seemed to have stopped suckling and spent most of her time away from her cub, while there was no complaining cries from her cub. Was the cub hit by hail? While I was prepared the worst, I was hoping for the best, that Vivienne was simply over concerned.

We had to wait till this afternoon's feeding time to separate Cathay from her camp so we could go inside to check what become of the cub. We searched every corner - under the trees, inside the bushes etc but could see nothing. It suddenly occurred to me that the cub may have been taken by another animal, such as snake or predatory bird! From the way Vivienne described to me it sounded very much like this.

This is one of the worst fears I hold and in fact I often have nightmares about this, ever since Hope was bitten by a baboon. I was worried sick about this when Madonna had her second litter of cubs in this same camp, besides the usual cold rains and strong wind.

Now the worst has happened to the only cub that 327 has sired, during the most "ideal" hot summer time. Although this is a risk of rewilding, I regret I did not insist on having her giving birth in the quarantine camp where the vulnerable young would be more sheltered from such dangers till they become mobile. Its another valuable lesson learned for us, and the number of South China Tigers is too small for us to take such total risks of loosing them to natural hazards.

The bright side is that we have proven 327 can breed, and that in three weeks Cathay should have post-partum oestrus and will be able to mate again. Thankfully, Vivienne managed to take two photos of the cub on its first day, which become valuable record for the project!

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