TRAGEDY struck Dublin Zoo as a rare Siberian tiger cub was accidentally crushed to death by its mother shortly after being born.
Devastated zookeepers were powerless to do anything as they didn’t want to risk disturbing the mother, knowing that more cubs were on their way.
The drama unfolded during RTE’s new series of The Zoo which aired on Sunday.
Zookeepers were watching the births of the tigers via a camera feed and grew worried when one of the cubs ended up situated behind its mother, Tundra.
Keepers Ciaran McMahon and Julie Bevins watched as Tundra gave birth and seemed unsure of what to do afterwards.
“It’s almost, ‘What do I do now?’ She’s a first time mother and she is figuring it out in her own mind.” Ciaran said.
He quickly realised the cub was in a precarious position situated behind the mother, who had turned her attention away from her newborn and began to clean herself.
“The cub is not in a great position because if she lies back there we could be in trouble.” He added.
Seconds later, his awful premonition came true when Tundra lay back on top of her newborn cub.
“I knew that was going to happen because of the position alone - it’s underneath her now and she’s cleaning herself,” said Ciaran.
Also watching on, Julie said: “It’s obviously not making any noise because there is no response from her.
“If it made a noise she would jump up straight away.”
Ciaran then explained why the keepers couldn’t act in a bid to save the poor cub.
“For us to step in at this stage would be futile for her well-being and for the cubs that are still inside her.” He stressed.
“So we just let the natural process take place now. Maybe for the second cub things will be different, and maybe a third cub, we don’t know, but we certainly won’t interfere at this stage.”
Minutes later, Tundra gave birth to two more cubs and keepers were delighted and relieved to see her straight on her feet this time and licking the newborns.
Despite the tragedy, the keepers are focusing on the elation of two healthy little cubs, a moment they’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
“We are over the moon,” Ciaran said about the newborns. “Fingers crossed, it’s still a very early stage. We have waited 20 years for this.”