The rescue and the decision to release the sub-adult tigers in the Kaziranga National Park in the north-eastern Assam state, happened so fast that we at WTI were scrambling to get photographers and video crews in place and in time. Guwahati based film-maker, Shibani Chaudhury , who was alerted in the morning, raced against time to get to the location, recounts her experience… Guwahati: Usual Monday morning until I get a call from WTI – Delhi , informing me of this dramatic rescue of 2 tiger cubs from a village near the Kaziranga National Park in central Assam . The cubs are to be released ‘asap’, so there is no time to waste. I try fixing up camerapersons closer to location. No luck. By 11am I’m racing to CWRC in Kaziranga about 250 kms away.
At 2.20pm all the personnel at the CWRC are action stations. Despite the languid hot afternoon, the atmosphere at the centre is electric. Two wild sub-adult tiger cubs, safely rescued and ready for release within 24 hours: wildlife rescue stories can’t get better.
The female is already c omfortably ensconced in a shaded long cage fastened onto a tractor-trailer. Rathin Barman (Centre manager) and Bhaskar Choudhury (Centre Veterinarian) lead me almost tiptoe to the male cub, still held in a ground enclosure. Topaz eyes glare into my camera; curious for a second – the magnificent face crinkles into a snarl. Then a short burst of a roar. So powerful, even in a 2-year old cub, it never fails to bring on a heady adrenaline rush. I hold my ground, stationary until he gets used to the camera and me. Bhaskar sprays him with water to keep him cool. Tarun the spunky CWRC animal caregiver loops wire through the cage door to make a makeshift lock to secure the cage door while loading into the release van. The cub ignores all the activity around him and soon gets drowsy. They cover the cage with bamboo matting and a thick plastic sheet.
A cluster of men work at shifting the cage into the van. There are no rollers, so the cage is dragged in small moves towards the ramp leading to the van. The cub rises and gives a protest roar. Then sits down and allows the activity to continue with no fuss. The men hoist the cage onto the ramp with bamboos and there is some amount of noise and hustle-bustle. I keep my camera focussed on his reactions and am surprised to find him relatively calm and seemingly unperturbed. Soon he is safely inside the van and while the cage is being secured he dozes quite peacefully.