In a major boost to efforts to revive tiger population, a translocated tigress has for the first time given birth to three cubs in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna reserve, where the big cats had disappeared.

The tigress, translocated from Bandhavgarh in the state to Panna in March last year after the reserve lost its tiger population, has given birth to three cubs, Panna Reserve Field Director R. S. Murthy told PTI today.

The cubs were believed to be 20 days old and were spotted by forest officials when the tigress was taking them out of her den. “The tigress and its three cubs are in fine condition,” he said.

It is for the first time that a translocated tigress has given birth in the country. Two tigresses and a tiger were translocated to Sariska in Rajasthan in 2008 after it lost its tiger population but the animals have not been able to breed till now. There were reports that the tigers brought from Ranthambhor could be siblings.

Panna reserve, which had more than 30 big cats four years ago, lost all its tigers by last year following which two tigresses-one from Bandhavgarh and another from Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh - were translocated there on March 6 and March 9, 2009 respectively. A tiger from Pench reserve was also translocated on November 14.

In more good news from Panna, officials said that the second translocated tigress could also be expecting.

Security has been beefed up in the area and entry of tourists banned for the safety of the tigers. “We will not allow tourist entry into the region to ensure safety of the tigress and its cubs,” Mr. Murthy said.

Officials were tight-lipped over the location of the tigress due to security reasons. Panna reserve is spread over an area of 543 sq km in Panna and Chhatarpur districts of eastern Madhya Pradesh.

“The cubs have opened their eyes. This development usually takes place after 10 days of birth,” Mr. Murthy said.

The translocated tiger had disappeared on November 26 and it was only after much effort that it was brought back to the park on December 25 last year.

The tiger has now settled in the new environs in Panna and this is evident from the birth of the three cubs, an official said.

The government has plans to relocate six tigers in all in Panna.