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From Well to Wild: The Untold Story of the Tigress Who Cheated Death

A tiny tiger cub falls into a well! Can vets save it & teach it to hunt again to survive in the wild? Read on to know.
Indian Masterminds Stories

The monsoon rains pounded down on Seoni, Madhya Pradesh, in August 2022. Little did anyone know, a drama was unfolding in a nearby well. A six-month-old tigress cub, barely weaned from its mother, had tumbled in. Weak and whimpering, the cub faced a bleak future. But fate intervened. The Pench Tiger Rescue team, alerted by the villagers, embarked on a daring rescue. With practiced hands and steadfast determination, they pulled the cub from the darkness.

Let’s know more about the miraculous rewilding process from the words of the Field Director, of Satpura Tiger Reserve, Mr. L. Krishnamoorthy, as he shared details with Indian Masterminds.

HEALING PAWS AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

The cub, not yet named by the veterinarians at Van Vihar treatment center, was a sorry sight. A prolapsed rectum and hairline fractures on her limbs and spine painted a grim picture. Yet, the vets refused to give up. Days turned into weeks as the vets fought for her life.

Antibiotics, analgesics, and multivitamins were disguised within a comforting mix of chopped meat and minced chicken. The battle raged, a silent struggle between human intervention and the wild’s will.

THE TRAINING GROUND: A DELICATE DANCE

As the little tigress recovered, her diet transitioned to live chicken and eventually, small animals. This was just the beginning of her rewilding journey. The Satpura Tiger Reserve, with its Malini enclosure, became her training ground. Here, the human touch was minimized.

“The important thing is that the animal has to have that violent instinct. There should not be any human habituation or interference at all. We kept it caged but close to the core region of the forest to induce constant interaction with the free-roam animals. We only kept two watchers around, that too in camouflaged outfits on camouflaged watch towers so that the animals are not able to see them and the watchers can easily keep a check from afar, on the tigress cub,” the IFS officer told Indian Masterminds.

Drones monitored her health, and food was left strategically, ensuring she didn’t associate food with humans. Learning to stalk was paramount. Under the watchful eyes of the reserve team, the cub honed her predatory skills, starting with small spotted deer and gradually graduating to larger ones with imposing antlers. Every successful kill was a victory, a witness to her strength.

THE DAY FREEDOM ROARED

Finally, after months of meticulous training, the day arrived. The capture and release operation was a tightly choreographed ballet. Within three hours, a team of veterinarians, park officials, and elephant handlers carefully ushered her out of her enclosure.

A thrill ran through the team as they spotted a male tiger near the release point. And then, the moment they’d all been waiting for – the little cub was free. Nervous calls from langurs echoed through the forest, perhaps a welcoming committee to the wild.

A NEW CHAPTER BECKONS: WILL SHE SURVIVE?

The cub, now radio-collared for tracking, took her first tentative steps into the wild. The dense forest floor, the cacophony of unseen creatures, the scent of untamed freedom – it was all a sensory overload. But, the well-rescued cub, a survivor from the start, was ready. The vastness of the forest, her rightful home, beckoned.

“It is a joint effort of Pench tiger reserve who rescued the animal, Van Vihar Bhopal who treated it, and ours who ultimately rewilded it,” he told Indian Masterminds.

CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS: A STORY YET UNWRITTEN

Rewilding an injured cub was no easy feat. Days of frustration passed when she wouldn’t hunt. The team, ever vigilant, supplemented her diet when needed. But the cub, with her indomitable spirit, persevered. She learned, she adapted, she thrived.

“Naturally, when the rewild tiger cub is released, we see the low-density tiger areas where there is a good prey population of cheetals, sambars, wild boars, and gaurs, along with adequate shelter and waterbodies. A notable point is that the tigress was having communication calls with other male tigers in the region, which was another reason for us to release her there. We will monitor her movement through her radio collar for a while,” Mr. Krishnamoorthy shared.

A LEGACY FORGED IN RESILIENCE

The cub’s story isn’t just about a single tigress. It’s a salute to the unconditional dedication of wildlife conservationists, a testament to the wild’s ability to heal and nurture even those who have strayed from its path.

The Cub, the survivor from the well, now roams free, a predator reborn. Her journey serves as a reminder – with every rescued animal, with every reintroduced predator, we inch closer to a world where humans and wildlife co-exist in harmony.


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