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On board with jungle royalty

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A veterinarian will accompany the cubs on both flights, examining them first on arrival at Changi and then again at Calcutta airport. Even if weary, the cubs will get ample time to recharge after arriving at Changi on the morning of June 20.

The plan is to take the five to a warehouse and feed them. After resting for 14 hours, they will again board a Singapore Airlines flight at 9pm local time for the second leg of the journey.

The Boeing 777 and Airbus 330 are of similar size and have two levels. The cockpit and cabin are on the upper deck while the luggage hold is in the belly or lower deck.

Airline officials said the cabin temperature in the luggage hold would be controlled for comfort, just as in the passenger section.

“Air circulation will be normal so that the cubs don’t have problem breathing. Dogs, birds and other domestic animals are often ferried in the luggage hold of passenger flights,” an official said.

Registered luggage will be kept at the front and the cages will be placed at the rear of the hold on both flights. “The two areas are segregated by wires,” the official said.

The cages conform to the specifications of the International Air Transport Association. “They are made with hardwood, metal, plywood, welded mesh and iron bars. The frame is solid wood or metal, either bolted or screwed. Sliding entry and exit doors are on one side,” a cargo official said.

The cages are covered so that the animals don’t become agitated when they see people at the airports. From Calcutta, the cubs will travel to Jamshedpur by road aboard a truck.

“This is the first consignment of animals arriving from South Africa. We will gift them a few animals in return,” Chakrabarty said.

The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa and the Tata Steel Zoological Park had signed an MoU last year.