Wednesday, 12 May 2010



On the night of 26 April 2010 Cathay refused her food and we waited in anticipation for the arrival of her baby. The following morning she was wandering around the camp without a care in the world, eating grass. Although she was much thinner than the previous day there was no vociferous cry from a new-born cub demanding its mother’s return. During the day she was also fairly active and didn’t rest in any particular place for any length of time. A surreptitious search of the Breeding centre and the quarantine camp revealed absolutely nothing which led us to believe that she had delivered only one cub and that it had been stillborn. Eddie van Eck of Lory Park Zoo was consulted by phone, during which all Cathay’s actions of the previous evening and following morning as well as her current physical condition were compared to her condition in the previous few days. Eddie confirmed that she had possibly suffered a stillbirth.

A careful search of the camp during feeding time later in the day also failed to reveal any signs of any delivery ever having taken place. This in itself is not unusual. In the case of a stillbirth instinct causes the mother to eat the stillborn cub and the placenta and cover up any trace that the cub/s had been born.

A layman’s definition of a stillbirth is when a female gives birth to a cub which is dead at birth. The medical profession describes stillbirth as either ‘intra-uterine’ or ‘intra-partum’. An intra-uterine stillbirth means that the baby has died in the womb. An intra-partum stillbirth means that the baby dies during labour. One possible reason for the stillbirth could be that the umbilical cord became twisted cutting off blood flow and oxygen supply effectively suffocating the cub. Another possible explanation could be that the cub had somehow turned into such as position as to block its nose for a length of time. A third possibility could be that the placenta could have detached prematurely. It is impossible to predict a stillbirth or even to do anything to aid its birth. Owing to the fact that we were not witness to the actual event we cannot say with any measure of accuracy whether the cub was in actual fact born dead or whether it died shortly after birth.

Following a stillbirth the female should come back into oestrus soon but we have decided to let her recover first and then put her back with a male the next time she comes into season.


Madonna and 327 last mated on Jan 24th 2010. Thirteen weeks passed since Madonna then and we speculated that she was pregrant, especially since we observed that she showed physical signs of pregnancy such as an enlarged belly. However she came back into oestrus again in the 14th week (after 91 days) and mated with 327 again. There could be two-explanations. The first explanation it she might have suffered a miscarriage. Second one could be that tiger pregnancy prediction is often based on whether or not the female comes back into oestrus after a certain period of time, and according to traditional literature if a mating is not successful the female should again come into oestrus in three to nine weeks. We have already proven this traditional observation to be inaccurate as it took Cathay ten weeks to come back into season again after mating. Therefore, it is also possible that Madonna was never pregnant, also because visual observation of tigress’ belly size is not totally reliable. On 2 May she and 327 mated again.

A miscarriage is the spontaneous abortion of an unborn cub. Causes of miscarriage are numerous. One such cause might be genetic abnormalities so severe that life is not sustainable in utero for example, failure for an embryo to form a functioning heart or brain due to genetic misfiring.

It is unfortunate that both tigresses failed to give birth especially since his first and only cub was lost to a predator in Dec 2009. But we are going to give 327 another chance at siring a litter.


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