Monday, 19 December 2011


Ever since Huwaa was reunited with her family she would spend some time with mother and little brothers and some other time with King Henry to continue their bonding. King Henry is a gentle soul in the company of Huwaa, putting up with all her antics continuously, even though he has matured sexually and looking for females through calling and Huwaa is just too young for him.

Meanwhile, Hulooo is even more fascinated now that there are increased activities and excitement with the addition of Huwaa in his neighbouring camp. He spends significant among of time gluing himself to the gate between the two camps which does not please Cathay at all. Having charged through the fence to attack King Henry a few month before, she now decides her grown-up son Hulooo is the threat and picks a daily fight with him through the gate, destroying quite a bit of the metal mesh on her side in the process. Hulooo refuses to give way. Perhaps because he didn't socialize properly as a tiger that he doesn't know that he should do as Henry does -chuffing back at Cathay to appease her? Poor Hulooo- I wonder what goes on in his head? Does he find his little siblings so amusing to watch? Or  does he want to relive his childhood? Even at this age he is certainly pretty playful with his brother JenB, stalking and chasing him, and jumping around happily in the open grassland at times. JenB refuses to be drawn into the fight between his mother and brother, wondering what is fuss is all about and looking very puzzled and embarassed by the showdown.
Temporarily named Alpha & Beta, the little brothers emulated sister Huwaa's every step and follows her up the trees if she climbs it and down into the water drainage if she chooses so. No doubt Cathay finds in her a good baby sitter as her boundless energy could keep her little sons entertained to no bound, freeing up her time to pick on Hulooo.

I am continuously amazed at what good mothers the tigers are. Cathay always let her babies eat first even though she was so hungry. Reuniting with Huwaa means that she has to share food with one more mouth but she is as gentle to her daughter now as she was when Huwaa was a little baby. Once just after she started feeding on a leftover carcass, when all her children decided to follow her example and monopolized it. She just let them eat while lying a few meters away. Only when they have their share would she starts eating. When Alpha tries to take it over again, she would warn him off but never does she touch them a finger.

Madonna proves to be even more extraordinary. Being in the camp far more removed from any human activities and shielded from Cathay has given her added sense of security and she hasn't  once paced with a cub in her mouth during the two months since she gave birth on Oct 9th, unlike when she was raising King Henry and Princess which worried me sick but from which I also learned a big lesson and therefore put her into this fairly isolated camp. Since we accidentally saw she actually has three cubs, we wanted to catch them and microchip them when they are about two months and still easy. But first we need to understand their movement and find out where she hides them. Madonna wouldn't take the bait! One day she tried to distract us by walking to a completely different direction when she saw us on the watch and she wandered around pretending not to be interested in getting back to her cubs. She won this round.

The next day we shut her into an adjacent camp from early in the morning thinking she may call the cubs out sometime during the day, but we waited in shifts in vain -she didn't make a single call to her cubs. After the sunset I knew she won again so she was let back into her camp. One would have thought that after a whole day being away from her cubs she would rush to them. But NO! Seeing humans still around she took her time, smelling the grass and rolling on the ground as if she was in no hurry. Suddenly roars came from KH causing one of her cubs' reactive cry. Instead of running to her cubs, she ran in the opposite direction into the river! The crying cub emerged, puzzled why mom ran away, but quickly followed her in her foot steps...Clearly even during such emergency situation she did not forget to fool us..

I gave up on sighting them, never mind catching them and microchip them. We informed the vet Joseph not to bother being on standby any more and we will wait a month or two more till they become a bit more independent and can follow Madonna out of the cover.

Yesterday was the day I decided not to bother monitoring Madonna and her cubs. I was just watching Hulooo and JenB when loud cries of cubs came out of Madonna's camp, in response once more to KH's roars. I rushed over into KH"s camp from where I could see into Madonna's camp and there! She and her three mini tigers were again on the river bank on the other side, in the shade of trees. I battled to see them even through the Binos but I could see two cubs suckling for a while before Madonna decided it was time to get up and wandered off. The two suckling cubs were taken by surprise and looked puzzled but quickly followed mom away. 

I drove around to another side of the camp and saw Madonna patrolling the fences by herself. How on earth she give instructions to her cubs to stay undercover just puzzles me. I know how tigers invite others to participate in something -by chuffing, but how on earth do they tell them don't follow me out in the open and stay where you are?! I did see the tiger mothers snarl mildly when they get a bit annoyed from their cubs constant energetic play or when their cubs wouldn't let mothers eat at all,  so perhaps that's what they do.

I must confess that watching the tiger mothers and how they raise their cubs got to be the most gratifying experience one can have on this planet. I wouldn't exchange it with anything else.

-TigerLi from Laohu Valley Reserve
Dec 15, 2011

1 comment:

Anna said...

Thanks I really enjoyed your posts on tigers. hope to hear more.