A big group of visitors throng in front of the white tiger enclosure at Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP). A few murmurs later, the crowd lets out a collective gasp to finally see Sirish, the zoo’s first white tiger, as the majestic feline steps out of the water tank.
At any day, the city zoo’s white tiger enclosure witnesses a good turnout of visitors. One of the major success stories of IGZP, the white tiger count here has gone up from one in 2001 to seven today, after captive breeding was started a decade ago. It is probably one among the few zoos, after Nandankanan in Bhubaneshwar, to be credited with a sizeable number of white tigers.
“Sirish arrived from the Hyderabad zoo in 2001. After a long wait, he finally got a partner in 2007, when Kumari was brought here from Hyderabad. All the cubs are from the same genetic pool,” said V. Srinivas of IGZP. The birth of the first litter of three cubs in 2009 soon brought the limelight on Visakhapatnam zoo that recorded successful inbreeding at such a short span of time. The success story continued when five cubs were born in the second litter in 2011, of which one did not survive. “The mother has been remarkably cooperative and taking care of the newborns each time. This is very crucial in captive births. The first three months are critical for the newborns to survive,” added Dr. Srinivas.
At one of point, the count of white tigers had reached nine, following which animal exchange programmes were initiated. Three white tigers were exchanged for two giraffes from the Malaysian zoo and a rhino from the Kanpur zoo. After a gap of six years, IGZP revived captive breeding of white tigers last year and welcomed another cub. The year-old cub is currently out of public eye.
With the population of the white tigers growing, the zoo officials are keeping a close watch on them. “Sometimes, there are instances of infighting, especially among the younger lot. We are keeping a close watch at the enclosure,” Dr. Srinivas said.