Stress and insecurity could be reasons for the mother’s behaviour, says zoo curator
Even after repeated efforts at captive breeding of striped hyenas, the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park lost a litter of two cubs a week ago. This time, however, the cubs were under the mother’s care for nearly three weeks before the unfortunate incident occurred. One of the cubs was first spotted by the animal keeper lying outside the den in the morning with bruises over the body, following which the second cub was instantly separated from the mother Swathi. But after two days of battle to survive in the zoo’s incubator, it died. “The post-mortem report indicated a puncture in the wind pipe,” the zoo curator B. Vijaya Kumar told The Hindu.
This comes as a setback to the measures being undertaken by the zoo for “near threatened” species like the striped hyena. Though she had conceived thrice before giving birth to the latest litter, stress and other factors like the lack of natural environs led Swathi to kill or abandon the cubs born each time. The last litter was rescued and hand reared in the zoo hospital. However, this time around the zoo officials had taken extra efforts to ensure that the mother remained undisturbed during the gestation period. “We had covered the enclosure with a green mesh to keep it from away from visitors’ gaze. Only the animal keeper went twice a day to give food in the mornings and evenings. Swathi had in fact made its own den and protected the cubs, which were all positive signs,” Mr. Kumar said. The deaths have again puzzled the zoo officials
According to wildlife consultant and retd. zoo veterinarian Dr Naveen Kumar, the incident could have occurred due to a degree of insecurity in the mother. “The mother might have put more pressure in the trachea region of the cub while holding it. This usually happens if they are disturbed or are under stress. Even sounds from adjoining enclosures of tigers or any other predators may trigger this kind of behaviour in striped hyenas,” he said.
A similar incident happened in the Hyderabad zoo last month. “Captive breeding measures among striped hyenas is rare. The only zoo to have successful done so is the Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ranchi,” said Dr. Kumar, who works closely with the zoos across the country. Wildlife experts pointed out the large presence of kites, crows and eagles could be another reason behind the peculiar behaviour of the mother.
In its effort to study the behaviour of the mothers and the newborns, the zoo will soon be installing CCTV cameras in major animal enclosures shortly.