Where’s the commitment to tiger conservation?

With international tiger forums and conferences, millions of pounds being spent on tiger breeding programmes and campaigns to combat poaching and illegal trading in tiger parts you’d think three rescued tiger cubs would be well looked after. Unfortunately it seems to be a bit of a pass the parcel game.

The three 2 month old tiger cubs were rescued from a house in Dhaka, Bangladesh by a team of special forces soldiers following a tip off. Good news you would have thought. While the traders may still be on the run at least three young tigers have been rescued and cared for.

Sadly, if the reports are correct, the Bangladesh government wanted nothing to do with the tiger cubs and they ended up at a private zoo of a rare birds breeder. The zoo did not know how to look after the tigers – they did not even know what to feed young tigers – and was not really set up for looking after very young cubs.

The national zoo in Dhaka did not want the cubs in case they carried diseases – surely they could quarantine the cubs – while the Bangladesh Forestry Department did not have facilities to look after young cubs. The result was the cubs were left with a small private zoo.

Well done to the private zoo for taking on the responsibility but why did the government facilities fail to take responsibility especially Dhaka Zoo who already have Bengal tigers. It would not have been too difficult to keep the young cubs in isolation until they could be checked for diseases.

The other concern is that the vet who was looking after the cubs at the private zoo had no experience of looking after young tiger cubs. The result was that he did not know if he was feeding the cubs with the right diet.

Forest Department’s veterinary surgeon Zahed Malekur Rahman was feeding the cubs powdered milk meant for human babies in a bottle four times a day, as well as finely chopped chicken meat. But as he said this was based on his experience of looking after lion cubs at a safari park.

Does this experience with the three rescued tiger cubs highlight some pretty big weaknesses in the action plan to save tigers? Surely one of the points of having large international tiger conferences and forums is to help experts to develop networks and to share experiences and knowledge?

Could no one have picked up a phone to a tiger specialist and got some advice. There’s a few tiger experts who could have helped with information such as diet and how to prevent the spread of disease.

Is there a need for tiger range states to look at the way they network and how they are able to respond to this type of situation.

For me though the big question has to be why Dhaka Zoo failed to accept the tiger cubs. It’s a modern zoo and has extremely good vet and animal health facilities. There was no need to put other animals at risk of disease until the cubs had been checked.

Lets take a look at three of the core values that Dhaka Zoo likes to promote on its website:

  • Protect- We passionately commit our expertise and resources to saving animals and ensuring their long-term survival.
  • Innovate- We strive to discover creative solutions through progressive thinking, practices and partnerships.
  • Engage- We connect people with animals and create defining moments to inspire everyone to respect, value and care for the natural world.


It appears that the zoo could have done better on all three counts.

Well done to Bangladesh for the rescue operation but it really does need to look again at the support networks that are in place.

External sites:

Dhaka Zoo.

AFP: Worries for Bangladesh’s rescued tiger cubs.

The Daily Star: Tiger cubs to leave mini zoo today.