Small step to conserve big cat
Deccan HeraldOn August 15 last year, when the country was celebrating the66th Independence Day, the zoo mandarins at Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in the State Capital had one more reason to cheer. Two lion cubs were born to a pair of Asiatic lions-- Vishal and Saraswati -- that were specially brought from Hyderabad zoo under a breeding programme. But their enormous joy was short-lived.
The mother (lioness) refused to feed the cubs. As a consequence, the health of the cub, which was born weak, deteriorated and it died the next day. The other cub was then brought up with a lot of effort. After the mother refused to feed the second cub too, the zoo employees had to hand-feed it. The cub, named Sheru, survived on goat’s milk for the first three months and thereafter started to consume meat.
Weighing just 1.25 kg at the time of birth, Sheru weighed 25 kg when the
five-and-a-half-month-old cub was released in the lion’s enclosure on February 2 for public viewing. At present, his daily diet comprises 2.5 kg chicken and 250 gm liver against his mother’s intake of 9 kg buffalo meat and 3 kg chicken.
Since Asiatic lions are found only in Gir Forest of Gujarat in the country, the CZA mandarins were quite enamoured over the report on how the zoo officials had helped Vishal and Saraswati mate and made every effort for survival of one of its cub.
The officials of CZA, after mulling over a proposal on how to develop a lion
conservation zone on the premises of zoo spread over 152 acres of land, recently sanctioned Rs 71.22 lakh for the purpose.
“Impressed with the successful breeding of Asiatic lion here, the CZA has sanctioned Rs 71.22 lakh to develop a lion conservation area on the premises,” said Abhay Kumar, director of the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park.
Developing the lion conservation area is aimed at providing an off display area to the lions, where they can enjoy their natural surroundings. “We have earmar*ked the rear portion of the existing lion enclosure for developing the conservation area. The project will be completed in six months time,” said the director. At present, there are five lions, including the cub, at the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park. Apart from Vishal and Saraswati, the parents of Sheru, the remaining two lionesses are of African hybrid.
According to the established norms of CZA, breeding of hybrid lions is prohibited in zoos. “But we can go ahead with the breeding of Asiatic lioness,” the official added. The zoo mandarins said they would soon make the Asiatic lions mate again so that cubs are born this year as well. But they will have to be extra careful this time as last year they not only lost a lion cub, but three tiger cubs too.