Tejika, an Asiatic lioness at Nahargarh Biological Park in Rajasthan, India, that recently gave birth to five cubs, was shown documentaries of cats bringing up their cubs in forests of South Africa and Gujarat’s Gir National Park to teach her about motherhood.
This was done after her sister, RT, littered two cubs in Jodhpur’s Machia biological park and accidentally killed one of them earlier this month. RT had picked up the cubs in her mouth and pierced the body of one, killing him instantly. The other was seriously injured.
“Tejika is taking good care of her cubs,” said Rajasthan’s chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar. “We don’t know what impact the documentaries had on her but she is doing better than her sister in Machia”.
The two were rescued from a circus and had never experienced motherhood. So taking care of cubs was new for them, said forest officials. Injuries to cubs are not uncommon for first litter of big cats in the wild as well, the officials added.
The Jodhpur incident was an eye-opener and the department installed an LED TV in Tejika’s enclosure showing her BBC and Nat Geo documentaries on how lions behave with their cubs in the wild. The videos focused on showing big cats lifting cubs in their mouth and moving around without hurting them.
Tomar said the videos were about motherhood in the wild and it was shown to Tejika for a short duration each day. Initially, she did not watch the videos but started observing the screen after a few days.
Wildife expert Raza H Tehsin said behaviour of lionesses towards their newborn is not homogeneous and it would be “very difficult” to say what impact the documentaries had on a particular lioness.
Tejika gave birth over a period of three days. “The first three cubs were born on the intervening night of May 20 and May 21. One of them was born dead, while another is struggling for life due to excessive weakness. Three cubs are healthy and being fed by their mother regularly,” Tomar said.
The cubs and their mother are in a secluded area and officials are keeping a watch through CCTVs.
Motherhood was not easy for Tejika, who was shifted from Gujarat a few years ago. For months, she was not able to adjust to the zoo atmosphere and was battling diseases. With doctors tending to her round the clock, she survived and then got intimate with a lion named Siddhartha.
Park officials, however, are keeping their fingers crossed for Tejika’s cubs. “We hope that the TV experiment will be successful, but it is early days,” said a park official, requesting anonymity.
Asiatic lions are found only in Gir National Park in Gujarat and some rescued from circuses have been kept in zoos across India. (Hindustan Times)