In less than a fortnight, four big cats, three of them white tigers, died at Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur, delivering a body blow to the zoo’s ambitious cross-breeding programme.
According to a zoo official, the one-year-old white tiger, Chitraa, which died on Thursday was one of the seven cubs named by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, during her maiden visit to the zoo in March.
Chitraa was one of the four cubs born to 10-year-old Anu and 11-year-old Bhishmar, both white tigers, in October 2012. Anu and Bhishmar were brought from the Delhi zoo in 2006 in a bid to promote cross breeding of Royal Bengal tigers and white tigers at Vandalur zoo.
Last week, two white tiger cubs, born a few days earlier through cross breeding, died at the zoo. The cubs were underweight, the zoo official said.
Each cub, on an average, should weigh around 750 grams at the time of birth but the two cubs that died weighed just about 400 grams.
“It was the first pregnancy of the cubs’ mother, a white tiger, and therefore, we failed to recognise her condition in time. If we had known earlier, we would have been able to provide her with better nourishment and medical care during pregnancy,” the zoo official said.
The population of tigers at Vandalur zoo now stands at 19. Fifteen of them are white tigers. This was the first time the zoo witnessed such a large number of tiger deaths in a short period.
Chitraa was admitted to the veterinary clinic in the zoo on September 20 after her health deteriorated. During medical examination, it was found her kidneys had malfunctioned.
After a week’s treatment, Chitraa was returned to the common enclosure. However, her health condition did not improve, and on Thursday morning, she was found dead in the enclosure. “In-breeding of her parents might have been one of the reasons for the kidney failure,” said another zoo official.
The 16-year-old Royal Bengal tigress, Devi, which died on Thursday, had been ill for some time and she had lost use of her hind legs last month. Devi was brought to Vandalur zoo from Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Vishakhapatnam in 2007.