Monday, 9 July 2012
Hunting-training Madonna’s Three Beautiful Daughters
Only two and half months passed but Madonna’s three little daughters have grown that much more. They are still as adorable as before but have gained a lot more confidence by now. Even the shyest of all, Zeta, ventures to come out and investigate me, albeit keeping a long distance between us. Now I certainly don’t have to be worried that they would be too wild that we couldn’t help them in time of veterinary need, or that they would be too stressed from human presence causing potential death.
They are extremely inquisitive. Anything new or that moves will focus their attention. Vita, formerly named Xa, is the most daring, being always the first to approach the object, and trailed closely by Yoya. Zeta is still the shyest girl of all, preferring to keep a distance or hide inside the trees to observe. Like any shy creatures, she needs mom the most, who certainly gives her plenty more confidence. Mom Madonna seems to understand this, as each time Zeta is out of sight for too long, she goes in search of her, calling. And once united, Madonna would shower Zeta with chuffs, head rubs and sweet tender talk.
The little girls reached 7 months before we started giving them “ formal” hunting training. Of course they had been seen chasing the odd mongooses and birds from time to time and I am sure nature keeps them busy and entertained, out of the sight of us humans. In the wild, tiger moms would bring her little cubs game to play with in order to slowly build their hunting abilities: a small deer or antelope, a bird, and etc. Our tigresses do the same with their cubs. By the time they reached 7 months, their body sizes have increased enough that bigger prey would no longer be a huge scare or threat to the cubs, and that they would also be more explorative and daring to approach the game, slowly discovering that it is actually their food or prey.
Initially, the cubs were terrified of a big creature like that of an antelope and would flee promptly. But they are observant and learn fast. Once they see how mom goes about making a hunt for them, they would imitate. A few days ago, when faced with a fair good sized antelope, Vita and Yoya put on their good performance, alternatively charming it by chuffing at it, or attack it head on. Even the shy Zeta joined in for the fun. They cornered the antelope to the fence but the antelope, smart by its own account, faced the cubs head on. Tigers normally attack by stalking and ambushing from behind. So when the prey faced the tiger, the tiger would be at a loss as to what to do, before coming up with a way to effectively tackle the prey. I had seen that with Hope, JenB and Coco.
Vita sisters wouldn’t give up. She cautiously tried sneaking behind a bush to access the antelope’s flank. Yoya followed in her foot steps and tried from another side. But the antelope was a formidable opponent. I was worried the cubs would be too reckless and get injured in the process, so I was glad to see even Vita and Yoya still have their cautious side to them. In the end though it took mom Madonna to secure the meal for her family. Once Madonna made the kill, she left her eager daughter Vita, who was imitating her, to drag the prey into the shade of the trees. With her mouth on the carcass’s neck, she toddled left and right..
Vita and Yoya were again leading the hunt today, but Zeta was too timid to come forward. I couldn’t see exactly what was going on due to the distance and the bushes between us, but I could see the tree branches moving and the occasional orangy stripes flashing back & forth. The cubs were certainly trying their best to get close to their prey from every direction, but the antelope was no easy enemy either. Madonna who would normally finish the prey off to secure the meal certainly had a different plan today. After having taken a look of the situation, she decided to just leave her cubs to the job. Emboldened by mom’s presence in the vicinity however, Zeta joined the hunt.
Research had shown that cats learn the fastest from their mother, second fastest from other cats, third from humans and last by figuring out themselves. We have good case of them learning from each other. I am confident Zeta will also catch up soon.
The three daughters will be nine months old in three days. They are certainly off for a good start!
Li Quan from Laohu Valley Reserve
6th July 2012