Monday, June 9, 2008

No sex, please. You are at Sri Venkateshwara Zoo

DNA Correspondent
Thursday, May 29, 2008 01:24 IST

Central legislation prevents 70 Indo-African lions – 14 females and 56 males – at the zoo from mating

HYDERABAD: Sex is taboo here, and the king of the jungle is no exception. The 70 Indo-African lions – 14 females and 56 males – brought to Sri Venkateshwara Zoo in Tirupati Tiger Reserve from various circuses and zoos across the country are not allowed to mate for fear of genetic contamination among other species.

In fact, the males and females have been kept in separate enclosures. Parvati is one of them. The female was brought to the zoo in 2001 but has been kept off sex despite being a ripe 14-year-old, thanks to a 1999 central legislation against cruelty to animals that bans regeneration of unnatural wildlife in captivity.

“Most of the time the animals are sedated so that they don’t become violent for lack of sex,” says a warden. The Indo-African crossbreed is genetically weak and hence the need to ensure it does not multiply. In India, only Asiatic lions and tigers are allowed to reproduce, say central zoo authorities.

State chief conservator of forests SK Das says the animals brought to Tirupati are not considered wildlife.

AV Joseph, principal conservator of forests (wildlife), says the state has specific instructions from the central zoo authority to prevent reproduction of these animals.
“The average lifespan of wild lions and tigers is less than 15 years, but those in captivity live 20-25 years,” says Praveen Bhargav, trustee, NGO Wildlife First, and a member of the national board for wildlife.

“We are not starving them of food, though circus animals eat more than those in the wild – eight kg of meat every day,” warden A Raghupati says.

Meanwhile, the zoo is planning to mercy kill 20-plus animals that cannot move. Besides, the lure of the high price that lion skin, teeth and nails fetch is threatening their safety.


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