‘Cuddly’ dummy toy tigress brings up orphaned cubs

A specially designed cuddly toy tigress — fitted with synthetic nipples and a milk bottle — is playing as a substitute mother to three one-and-a-half-month-old abandoned cubs and helping improve the survival chances in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in India.

The authorities have placed the dummy tigress in the enclosure that the cubs consider as their real mother. The toy tigress is fitted with synthetic nipples and a milk bottle to feed the baby tigers.

The mother of the cubs was found dead outside the reserve forest area in Shahdol district on January 19. Five people had been arrested for allegedly electrocuting the tigress.

“The cubs were born about 40 days back. After locating the strayed cubs following the killing of their mother, we placed them in an enclosure in the forest area, where this specially-designed dummy toy tigress was kept,” said Mridul Pathak, the director of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

“The dummy tigress has been fitted with artificial nipples and milk bottle hidden in the foam and cotton wool. After the initial hiccups, the cubs started to suckle as if they are having it from their own mother,” he said.

The cubs were initially hand-fed milk and required medicines by the forest department staff. However, the administration later decided to reduce the human interference.

“In a bid to reduce the human interference, we decided to keep the cubs with the dummy toy tigress,” Pathak said.

He said the cubs now play with the dummy just as they would play with their mother.

Surprisingly, the cubs consider the dummy tigress as their mother.
“They not only get food through this dummy tigress, but they also play with it. But, more is required to reduce human interference further and we are thinking in this direction,” Pathak told PTI. ​

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