Saturday, 10 December 2011

Vulnerable Little "Beast Kings"

The tiger is called "King of Beasts" in Chinese culture. When one sees in awe the beauty of such a great beast of a tiger-whether in zoo or in the wild, one can hardly imagine how vulnerable these magnificent kings could be when they are young.

In the wild, they are faced with all kinds of bacteria and viruses that their tiny bodies have a hard time to cope with. Then there are those venomous enemies such as the snakes, scorpions and even poisonous spiders. Further, other predators (including us humans) who compete for food and territory are constantly seeking opportunties to eliminate the competitions' young while they are easy to kill.

In captivity, certain dangers faced in the wild by the tigers are replaced by others. A dirty environment could cause cubs to contract deseases easily but excessive hygiene could lead to weakened immune systems too. Captive tiger mothers often do not know what to do with them so humans have to look after the cubs. Without mother's milk for the first 24 hours, cubs are more prono to deseases. Tiger cubs are vulnerable for as long as six months old and that is why zoos do not even register their existence untill they have passed this critical period.

The South China Tiger's mortality rate is notoriously high in zoos-as much as 90 percent at one stage. Though this rate has been reduced to 60 percent due to improved nutrition, care and environment, you are still talking about 6 in 10 tiger cubs die.

The birth of our first little South China Tiger outside China, has given us great cause to celebrate - it has proven that the South China Tigers can breed better in a natural environment where they become healthier than being caged like prisoners. But it has also added extra sleepless nights to us all. Not only have we recruited outside expertise kindly sponsored by Lory Park Sanctuary to look after the cub full time, our entire manpower is allocated to helping the little tiger. We also have to adapt our rewilding strategies to suit his need as he is being hand fed at the moment.

Despite all we could do, it still remains to be seen if this little "King" will survive the first months. The scare today is a case in point. TigerWoods Junior was found throwing up his food-a milk mixture- this morning and his breath was also weak. He was quickly taken to a wildlife vet two hours away in Kimberly. I was mentally prepared for all possible consequences: the memories from the death of the Tiger Hope came back to me...

It was constipation. He has this problem and we have tried injecting liquid into his rear but now constipation occured higher up in his intestines. Unfortunately it is a hard problem to solve as this is the only substitute for mother's milk available and it does often cause constipation in animals. No substitute can truly replace mother's milk. The vet recommended treatment for the blockage and we have to see if it works overnight...

The bright side: Junior is breathing normally again, and he still has forty percent chance to live! (See Save China's Tigers website for weekly summary diaries).

No comments: