Train Tiger Tumble

  Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!

It was decided at last that my tigress would go to Trichur (Kerala).Toby Ninan can be contacted at Ninan@indianwildlifeclub.com

She was duly crated and ensconced in the brake van of the train. (G.T Express) going from Delhi to Madras-to be further transported from Madras for the onward journey to Trichur.

All went well for the first day and night and at every second station or so, her keeper and I would open the door and peep in. Except for a few roars at the terrified guard all would be well. Giving us a sour look she would proceed to drink the cool water that was poured into her stone pot. After a few more stations even the guard would come into the van and not be greeted by a couple of powerful roars but a number of 'pfft pffts' which said that even he was welcome in case no other company was available.

Hell broke loose at a station called 'Ongole'. The guard came running to my first class bogey and told me that the tiger had escaped and we would have to get the police to shoot her. Hearing this, the keeper and I left a half eaten meal to try and make out what really was going on.

On reaching the brake van we saw that the door was firmly closed and securely locked. The guard, who by now gathered together his breath explained that the slide door of the crate had been smashed by the shunting action of the train aided by a 'helpful' angle iron on one side of the bogey. He told me that the tiger was out of the crate and would tear me up if I went inside. I told them not to worry as I could easily charm the animal back into her crate and all would be well.

On being reassured, he gingerly opened the door and I put a leg and my head inside. The old girl had her torso out and giving me a look of reassurance slipped back into the crate. losing no time, the keeper and I pushed the other end of the crate onto the wall of the carriage and tied it down to the wall which formed a sort of make shift door. Soon we tied the crate securely onto this wall and temporarily halted 'madam's' exploratory movements. The train was about to go so I invited the guard to a long chat at the next station and soon explained to him that I was solely responsible for the safety of the tiger and told him that as he had seen for himself, nothing will happen for the next part of the journey.

To cut a long story short we reached Madras safely and with the kind help of a luggage clerk found a carpenter who worked for the railways. Between us we 'flicked' one of those boards on trains proclaiming 'Grand Trunk Express' or 'Blue Mountain Express' and fashioned this into a door which slid comfortably in place to replace the broken one.

As the crate was transshipped to the connecting train' Cochin Express' the guard of this train came to know all about 'Rosy's' extra cage activities and refused to take the train to the her destination.

The Station Master and other train officials were called and I made up a cock and bull story that Rosy was a gift of the President of India to the Kerala Government I also added that since she was pregnant, she had to be handled with care and rushed to the Trichur Zoo for delivery under the care of the best vets of the veterinary college there. This tall tale had its desired effect. The guard was replaced and we had an uneventful journey to the Trichur station.

At the station the tiger crate was loaded onto a long two wheeler push cart and lo and behold, in the middle of the town the men managed to let go off the cart and the crate with tiger in it tumbled on to one side in the middle of the road.

I still think it a wonder that the crate did not snap open. The crate, cart and tiger were soon put right side up. The cart and its burden finally reached the zoo where I could meet friends and colleagues whom, over some strong beverages I could regale with the tale of tiger, train and tumble.

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