Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Indian 'transfusion tiger' dies

Juhi being treated
Juhi is believed to have be the first tiger to receive a transfusion in India

A wild tiger cub attacked by villagers has died in a central Indian zoo two days after vets tried to save it with a rare blood transfusion, officials say.

The cub, Juhi, initially showed signs of improvement but suddenly went into convulsions and died, officials said.

Another cub found at the same time near the city of Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra is getting better and responding to treatment.

Loss of habitat has brought tigers into conflict with humans in India.

The blood transfusion is believed to be the first carried out on a tiger in India and was done after its haemoglobin dropped to "dangerously low" levels.

The eight-month-old cub was named Juhi after a fragrant white flower native to India.

'Several complications'

"We tried a lot but I guess it was not enough. We could not save the cub. It had not eaten for days and was severely dehydrated. It was suffering from haemorrhagic gastroenteritis," Dr Sunil Bavaskar, one of the vets who treated the cub, told the BBC.

He said that a team of vets was now working to ensure that Juhi's sister, called Jai, or Victory, survives.

"We will make sure that she recovers but I doubt if she will be able to survive in the wild. The fact that they strayed near human civilisation shows they cannot hunt. Also we do not know when they lost their mother."

The chief wildlife officer in Nagpur, Bimal Majumdar, told the BBC that the two cubs were found last week near Chandrapur, a forest area.

Tiger in India
India's tiger population has declined rapidly in recent years

"One of them was given a blood transfusion. There were several complications, including external infections and damage to intestines," he said.

A team of vets worked for over two days to save the cub - which was given blood from a tiger held in captivity near Mumbai (Bombay).

Mr Majumdar said that the death of the cub was a "sad moment".

"We have lost the battle," he told the Associated Press news agency. "She got convulsions this morning [Tuesday] and we tried our best to save her.

"But she stopped breathing and that's how the end came."

Juhi and Jai were found near the Tadoba tiger reserve as they were being chased by villagers who wanted to kill them because they feared the animals would attack children and cattle.

Experts say that there are only about 1,500 tigers in the wild in India - down from about 3,600 six years ago and an estimated 100,000 a century ago.

Human encroachment on their habitats, poaching and busy roads and railways have all been blamed for their demise.

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