Thursday, April 24, 2008

Zoo gets ready for lion’s share

- Authorities pin hope on Asiatic jungle cat pair for population increase

The Telegraph

Jamshedpur, April 22: Step away bulls and bears, when it comes to zoos, jungle cats are the preferred choice.

The Tata Steel Zoological Society (TSZS) will soon be home to robust Asiatic lions. Sources said housing lions has now become a necessity for zoo authorities as they are only left with one pair of the breed — an aged lioness (13) and a young male (4), who was procured from a rescue centre in Bengal.

“Hybrid lions were available for the zoo but we are thinking of housing a pure Asiatic breed. We are currently looking at the Junagadh Zoo in Saurashtra — known as the cradle for Asiatic lions,” an official told The Telegraph.

Unlike hybrid ones, Asiatic lions are better built with shaggier coats with a longer tassel on the end of their tails along with longer tufts of hair on the elbows. They are also known as the Persian lion as they were once found in Southwest Asia. But now they survive only in India.

The zoo’s interest to house Asiatic lions is also linked to Central Zoo Authority’s (CZA) decision. “Yes, the CZA is pushing zoos across the country to procure the Asiatic breed,” TSZS director M.S. Jain said. But zoo authorities were not sure if this would help increase the population of the species.

However, authorities were not in the position to say whether young cubs would be brought home or full-grown adults.

“It really depends upon the availability of the breed. We are interested in getting a pair of Asiatic lions. It is possible that we may have to procure adults,” Jain said.

Getting jungle cats home is not easy. Several formalities need to be completed. “Hence, besides Junagadh, we would also contact authorities of the Alipore Zoo in Calcutta and Nandan Kanan in Orissa,” Jain said.

Animals between zoos across the country cannot be bought or sold. They can either be exchanged or arranged for. Around six months ago, zoo authorities had exchanged nine hog deer for a pair of leopards from an animal rescue centre in Jaldapara, Bengal.


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