It is only when a tiger cub is eight months old that it can survive on its own. Any time before that, it needs its mother and can only go eight days without being fed. So, when officials of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve found four cubs, two months old each, whose mother had died 12 days ago, they were both relieved and excited.
On March 14, a field forest team found a two-day old carcass of a tigress and four cubs around it. But before the cubs could be rescued, they had strayed off and forest officials were worried — they could have fallen prey to other carnivores, been targeted by poachers or died of starvation. A combing operation was launched, with 25 camera traps installed around the area where the carcass had been found. But not one image came up, nor did anyone spot any cub.
So, on March 18, the operation was abandoned. While tiger cubs can start eating meat when they are 40 days old, they continue to depend on their mother for food. Cubs this young were not expected to survive beyond eight days, according to wildlife veterinarians. Forest officials gave up.
But on Wednesday morning, hope revived. “A forest patrol team saw pug marks of tiger cubs,” deputy director of PTR Naveen Khandelwal said.