Three White Tiger and Sixteen Bengali Tiger cubs have died in Dehiwela Zoo in three years

By Ifham Nizam

A white Tiger cub walks around during a photocall at the “Serengeti” Safari park in the northern German village of Hodenhagen at the April 21, 2010. Two white Tiger cubs named Rico and Kico were born on March 8, 2010 at the private safari park and they will be raised with bottled milk by keeper Regina Hamza. Photo courtesy of: REUTERS/Christian Charisius

The National Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala, despite having the services of curators and veterinary surgeons, assistant directors and deputy directors to carry out special tasks and programmes, had completely messed up at a crunch situation, particularly when it came to saving endangered species.

The zoo’s newly appointed Director General, Anura de Silva, while agreeing there were a number of shortcomings in the zoo, said he would do his utmost to save the endangered animals in the zoo.

According to reliable sources, de Silva had lambasted the officials and questioned them about the recent deaths of white tiger cubs in the zoo. The mother tiger refused to feed the cubs when one of the cubs died accidently by going under her body.

Zoo officials said the mother was feeding the three cubs when some of the officials including a deputy director started carrying the cubs and entering the enclosure, on and off, which made the mother animal unsettled.

The zoo chief questioned officials as to why the remaining two cubs were not fed with the expensive milk powder – three tins of which were brought down recently from London at a cost of Rs 60,000, lying at the stores, was not used in an emergency situation. Some officials had said that they don’t have experienced people to bottle-feed the animals.

Germ free Complex

Ceylon Today learns the zoo authorities had also failed to use the newly opened Laboratory Complex and Nursery that was built at cost of Rs 30 million. The germ free complex was opened by Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa on 15 June to provide better services and facilities to young and vulnerable animals.

Fielding questions, the Director also said when he questioned why the two cubs were taken to an enclosure to be fed by a sow that was feeding nine piglets – three times the size of the cubs – vets had told him the sow’s milk is similar to the tiger’s milk in content. However, veterinarians said the decision was taken by Deputy Director Dhammika Malsinghe, who was unavailable for comment despite several attempts made by Ceylon Today to contact her.

On a positive note, the Director General said the albino tiger parents were still young and could have another litter in six months time.

He said steps would be taken to send the officials to be trained in Indian zoos, especially to handle endangered species during birth and after birth.

He also said despite the presence of a large number of officials, the zoo doesn’t have a plan to conserve vulnerable species, thus, steps would be taken to improve it.

19 tiger cubs

Within the last three years, some 19 tiger, cubs, including the three white tiger cubs and 16 Bengali tiger cubs had died at the zoo. Statistics reveal that the zoo authorities had failed to protect any of the cubs that were born in the zoo.

De Silva said he had asked for a detailed report and following which, inquiries would take place. However, he was quick to say that only a post-mortem would reveal the cause of death.

The zoo, tagged as one of the best in South Asia, in its 76 years of operation, had lost more baby animals than any other zoo in the region. The classic case was the death of anaconda babies, losing an opportunity, where the zoo could have got down many more species under the animal exchange programme. courtesy: Ceylon Today