Tuesday, Apr 30, 2002
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By Our Staff Reporter
Of course, the newcomers are not in the same category, and they are at least a generation behind. But the Magnificent Seven have something in common the Born Free Foundation (BFF).
The big cats owe their lives to the BFF, a Sussex-based registered charity set up by Virginia Mckenna and her husband, the late Bill Travers (lead pair in the Oscar-winner, Born Free).
The animals' passage to India is also the BFF's doing. In fact, Greenidge alone survives from the first six brought by the BFF to the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) in 1987.
Now, he and the new ones will be together at the £100,000 BFF-funded "Tigers' Life Time Care Facility"' inside the BNP.
On Monday, when the new facility was officially inaugurated, the six Siberian Hybrid tigers (Roque, Royale, Harak, King, Ginny, and Zeudi: four males, two females) were star attractions. There were other celebrities too Ms. Mckenna herself, her son and BFF CEO, Will Travers, the Forest Minister, K.H. Ranganath, and even a British actress, Amanda Holden.
Of the six, the one who drew the most "oohs" and "ahs" was the biggest, 246-kg, 11-year-old Royale. Italian (he was rescued from an Italian circus), male, and with an affinity for female keepers, Royale was soon the favourite, and his every move was keenly watched. (Royale, Zeudi, Harak, and King were all rescued from Circo de Madrid, an Italian circus; Ginny was rescued from a mini zoo in Belgium, and Roque from a pet shop in Barcelona).
To reach their new home, the cats underwent a long journey, from the Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent by plane to Chennai, and then by road in specially prepared lorries to Bangalore. When Royale refused to get out of his cage, the women keepers Michelle Farris and Jane Livermore had to "look into his eyes and calm him down'' before he would agree to walk into the new enclosure. ``You have to be very quiet with them,'' Ms. Farris told The Hindu. She had been with the cats for two years. Asked if she had ever been scared, she replied she never got into the enclosure with the animals. She had spent a lot of time "bonding" with the animals, she said. In Kent, the cats were fed thrice a week with horse meat (after the Mad Cow disease scare). While Royale was fed 12-15 kg., the others were given between eight and 12 kg., she said.
The new facility is spread over nine acres, or 33,700 sq.m., as compared to the 2,000 sq.m. the tigers were confined to in Kent. The BNP Deputy Conservator of Forests, B.M.T. Rajeev, said the area included Night and Day "kraals", a replication of their natural environment. The cats would be fed beef at the park, he added.
On Monday, Ms. Mckenna launched "Operation Tiger 2002" to raise funds for anti-poaching units and help save the roughly 5,000 tigers left in the wild worldwide.
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