Thrissur: Balan, the tiger, came to the zoo with a gaping wound on his body. After a few months, Gauri joined him. Both became friends as Balan’s injury started to heal, and they stayed in nearby cages for close to three years. First, Gauri died of old-age related ailments, and now Balan followed Gauri after enduring the pain of loneliness for more than two years.
Balan had been the gallant face of the Thrissur Zoo since February, 2013. The tiger was snared from the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary after the wild cat frequently strayed into human habitat and posed a threat for people. When the feline was brought to the zoo it had a wound, which the authorities thought was a gunshot injury, in its shoulder. Though a surgery was done, no bullets were recovered but the wound started to heal fast.
After a month, Gauri, the tigress, was caught from the Muthanga forest and brought to the zoo here. The tigress was earlier trapped by the Karnataka Forest Department and taken to the Mysuru Zoo. Though it was freed in the forest, the wild cat was later caught and brought to the Thrissur zoo.
It took almost three months for both the tigers, who were locked in nearby cages, to settle down in the new environment. They never attacked each other, though the felines were periodically released in the open cage, said the caretakers.
Both the tigers were provided special treatment due to their advanced age, and were usually calm inside the cages.
Gauri died two years ago and since then Balan was all alone. Caretaker Vipin used to look after the ageing Balan but the wild cat could easily recognize other zoo workers, said Veterinary surgeon Benoy C Babu and curator V Akhil.
Balan couldn’t catch a prey as his teeth were worn out.
Akash – the mute spectator
A calm and silent Akash, the lion, was curiously looking at the caretakers taking the carcass of Balan out of the cage. With the death of Balan, the zoo now has only 8-year-old Akash and tigers Chandu and Rishi, both 17 years, in the section for big animals.