The Tale Of Tara: - Page 1&2: Raising & Release | 3: A Man-Eater In Dudhwa | 4: Tara's Heritage
Collecting the cub:
Singh started communications with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She had already supported his leopard release and was happy to help source tiger cubs.
But no available cub was found within an Indian zoo. At that time, breeding in that country was at a low and so Singh searched overseas. In July 1976, Twycross Zoo in England, supplied a three-month-old female they had called Jane.
Even before the renamed Tara made it back to India there were whispers of a major problem. It was pointed out that zoos did not contain any pure-bred Bengal tigers. Even today, most of the tigers you see described as Bengals are of Bengal parentage, but carrying genes from another subspecies. They cannot be entered into studbooks and are not used in official captive breeding programmes.
This meant that Tara must be a hybridised tiger and there was strong doubt expressed regarding the wisdom of importing her into India. Singh knew her confused history and though today there is confusion regarding the background of her hybrid genes it is commonly thought there was some Siberian strain amongst her ancestors. Nevertheless, at the time, Singh insisted he held a certificate showing Tara was a Bengal tigress, but that was actually only a veterinary certificate.
Instead of waiting for full clearance to be given, and for a decision to be made on the issue, Singh himself admits he jumped the gun, ignored the red tape, forewent the required clearances, and took her to India anyway. Once she was there it was easier to battle the critics and gain agreement for his project.
Tara was raised at Tiger Haven. She was unrestrained and unconfined, except at night when the risk from other tigers was at its greatest. As she grew, she very occasionally stayed out overnight instead of returning to home base.
Daily walks established her a territory of between 30 and 40 square kilometres. This free range walking was the only training Singh could do in an attempt to bring out her instincts. He was unable to apply discipline or hunting demonstrations such as a tigress would give her cubs. She developed an unproductive habit of charging at large prey and so scaring them away. Her first independent kill was made at 17 months; this was a small sambar fawn.
By this time a mother-raised cub would be well experienced in the tricks of the kill and close to being independent. They would have learnt techniques for attacking and bringing down large game and which parts were best to eat.
Tara was behind her wild raised cousins, but what is important to this story is that we do know she was able to kill, to some extent, by the time she left Singh's care. We also know she could inflict the nape bite and kill using it, at least when there was a bait tied for her.
Another important part of the experiment was to prevent her becoming too accustomed to visitors. This was a big problem, and some were very insistent, though Singh attempted to explain repeatedly why people mustn't approach her too often. He realised that too much familiarity with people may be her undoing when she eventually chose to depart for good.
At about two-years-old Tara did return to the wild. She later mated with one or more tigers, producing at least four litters of cubs.
Singh later kept track of Tara partially through droppings. Early deposits showed infant porcupine quills and mud. The colour and consistency of her faeces had changed significantly from when she was feeding on large prey like buffalo. Singh himself acknowledges she must have been hungry at this stage, though she never returned to Tiger Haven seeking food. A sighting after she had been living independently for three months showed she was thin, but holding her own.
But that is far from being the end of the story. It was just the beginning....
With Thanks To Aditya Singh