National Geographic : 1970 Apr
Mohini had been a model mother at first, but now zoo officials were worried. She had begun to lick her offspring excessively and pace nervously around the cage carrying it in her mouth. The rare and valuable cub was in danger; someone would have to take over the mother's role. My husband felt he had no right to ask any of his associates to assume that grave responsibility. Rewati would come to our house where he could watch her closely-and I was drafted as foster mother. That afternoon, before the dinner party, Ted brought the baby tiger home. It was hard to realize, staring at that appeal ing little 2 1 /2-pound bundle of fluff, that she would become a regal giant of 400 pounds or more. We scurried around the house, turning an upstairs bedroom into a nursery, complete with incubator, baby scale, and nursing bottles. If I was a bit preoccupied that night, I'm sure the guests understood. There was at least $10,000 worth of infant tiger in that incubator upstairs. And, really, it was more than just a matter of money. Countless thousands of people had already learned of Rewati through the news media, and were eager to see her when she was old enough to return to the zoo. What if I blundered in my mother's role? There was so much that I didn't know-that no one knew-about hand-raising a white tiger cub! Of some three dozen white tigers in captivity, most remain in India. A pair in the Bristol Zoo in England has produced four young; a female is owned by the Crandon Park Zoo in Miami. Mohini and her off spring complete the list of those living elsewhere. Hungry Cub Changes Household Habits Because the fat and protein content of nursing milk varies widely among the big cats, Ted had searched all available zoo literature for information on tiger's milk. He found nothing. We settled on a commercial formula for baby animals, and Rewati took an ounce of it. Well, the first hurdle was behind us; we would vary the formula cautiously, guided by the cub's growth rate and bowel movements. My youngest child is 18, so I had forgotten how exhausting a new baby in the house can be. When Rewati began yowling her first night, Ted and I awoke with a start. Two pairs of bare feet hit the floor in unison. Arriving simultaneously, side by side, at the nursery doorway, we managed to wedge through-the way millions of other parents have done. Rewati just wanted her bottle and a dry blanket. From that time on, she wanted those bottles every 31/2 hours around the clock. Soon, she would outgrow the incu bator, graduate to an open box 21/2 by 4 feet, and then move on to a larger pen in the basement. On the tenth day of her life-two days after she arrived at the house-both her blue eyes were open. On the 13th day she managed a wobbly walk. On the 22nd day she exhibited signs of playfulness, shaking her towel like a puppy. But her 24th day was the one I had been waiting for. Rewati slept the whole night through. And so did I. 484 Room, board, and love A SQUIRMING BUNDLE of snowy fur, dark stripes, and pink nose, Rewati arrived last April in the cage of famed white tigress Mohini at the National Zoological Park in Washington. When the 420-pound mother seemed nervous in handling her 2 1 /2-pound offspring, zoo director Theodore H. Reed whisked Rewati to his own home in nearby Maryland. There his wife Elizabeth, a veteran foster mother of zoo babies, lavished round-the-clock care and affection. Dr. Reed (right) winces as Rewati grooms his beard. Mrs. Reed (above) feeds the 6-week-old cub beneath a portrait of Mohini, whose re markable story was told in Dr. Reed's May 1961 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC article: "Enchant ress! Rare White Tigress Comes to Washington."