Managing the Genes


In line with management policy at Tiger Canyons, the largest and most productive male, Seatao has been vasectomised. In a two hour operation, Dr. Charlotte Mouiex  performed the vasectomy.

Dr Charlotte Mouiex  cuts the tube that transports the sperm on Tiger Seatao

Dr Charlotte Mouiex cuts the tube that transports the sperm on Tiger Seatao

After the operation, Seatao was weighed and tipped the scales at 222 kilograms. During the weighing, Seatao woke up briefly, causing some consternation amongst the workers lifting him.

Seatao tips the scales at 220kg

Seatao tips the scales at 220kg

Seatao joins Shy Boy and Tiger Boy as the third male to be vasectomised at Tiger Canyons. Seatao fathered Tigress Julie’s second litter of three of which Sundarban and Zaria survive. (Shine, the third cub and a white tigress was killed in an attempted theft (See newsletter 38).

Seatao has been the most prolific breeding male at Tiger Canyons, fathering cubs with both Julie and Shadow

Seatao has been the most prolific breeding male at Tiger Canyons, fathering cubs with both Julie and Shadow

Seatao also fathered Julie’s third litter of five of which four: Indira, Mahindra, Tibo (white tigress) and Ussuri (has three small cubs) all survive.

Shadow has also produced a litter of cubs fathered by Seatao, of which an unknown number survive. I believe some of the cubs were killed by Julie. (See newsletter 83).

In a recent mating between Tibo and Shy Boy, Tibo instinctively knows that Shy Boy (vasectomised) cannot impregnate her. Therefore, after five copulations, she began to seek out another male, calling from the high rocks. Eventually, a desperate Tibo left her territory to pursue Sundarban. Sundarban, however, showed little interest in copulating with Tibo.

I had seen this behaviour before when Sundarban allowed Mahindra to mate with Panna when Panna was in full oestrus and was vigorously pursuing Sundarban.

Jenna Drew (studying veterinary science) had made the observation previously that Sundarban seemed to have a condition called ‘cryptochid’ (This is when the testicles are inside the body).

After vasectomising Seatao, I asked Dr. Charlotte Mouiex to dart Sundarban so we could do a thorough inspection. Sure enough, Sundarban has the condition ‘cryptochid’. His testicles are inside the body and therefore the temperature of the sperm is too high to be productive. On doing a sonar scan, we were unable to find any testicles at all.

Sundarban has the condition called cryptochid which is where the testicles are internal to the body and therefore the temperature of the sperm is too high

Sundarban has the condition called cryptochid which is where the testicles are internal to the body and therefore the temperature of the sperm is too high

In newsletter 74, I told you about the new tiger behaviour when Sundarban and Mahindra formed a coalition similar to male lions. I now believe that Sundarban’s ‘cryptochid’ condition makes his libido and hence his aggression much lower than normal breeding males.

Having said this, Sundarban has been in several brutal fights (See newsletter 74) and has ousted Shy Boy and Tiger Boy from their territories. Therefore his desire to control as much territory as possible remains the same, while he is libido remains low.

In fact, as he expands his territory, he is moving perilously close to Ussuri’s den site. If he beats up Sariska (the father of Ussuri’s cubs) and takes Sariska’s territory, he could well kill the cubs. However, the theory behind this, is that Sundarban would kill the cubs to bring Ussuri into oestrus so he can inject his own genes. Sundarban does not have any genes to inject because he’s ‘cryptochid’ so would he worry to kill the cubs? I will be sure to keep you informed as things develop!

Sariska, father of Ussuri's cubs, showing normal testicles outside the body

Sariska, father of Ussuri’s cubs, showing normal testicles outside the body

The breeding males presently at Tiger Canyons are Corbett and Sariska from the Shadow gene line and Mahindra from the Julie gene line. Kumba (twelve weeks old) will eventually become the third gene line called the ‘Aurora’ gene line at Tiger Canyons.

The Tiger Canyons experiment continues to produce new facts in the fields of veterinary science, genetics, territorial behaviour and communication.

The genetic profiling of all the tigers and cheetah is presently underway, which will help us take some of the difficult decisions when it comes to managing the genes.

Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV

Credits: John Varty – Tiger Canyons

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