Thursday, July 31, 2014

14 lion cubs born at Chhatbir after 15 years.

Manvir Saini, TNN | Jul 22, 2014, 07.18AM IST
CHANDIGARH: A six-year-old Asiatic lioness has delivered four cubs at the Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, popularly known as Chhatbir, giving the authorities something to cheer or rather roar about after 15 years.

Abhay, a lion brought from a zoo in New Delhi on "breeding loan'' basis, has fathered the cubs. Heli, the lioness, and Abhay were introduced to each other on Valentine's Day this year.

Punjab chief wildlife warden Dhirendera Singh said the cubs were born on June 28 and have been kept with the mother. "Since there is zero human intervention in the enclosure, we do not even know how many of them are males," he added. Even as the cubs were active and healthy, the zoo has decided to keep them under observation of CCTV cameras and provide special care for three months. "They will remain with their mother for six months. This is the beginning of another golden era for the zoo. We are hopeful to see the lion safari regain its glory," he added. The zoo has three Asiatic lions, with 24-year-old Rocky the oldest in the safari, once having a pride of 14 lions. It was the main attraction since the zoo came into existence on April 13, 1977.
However, the breeding was not an easy job. Brought from Rajkot in 2012, Heli had suffered a serious illness and was hospitalized. Though veterinary doctors at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Agriculture Science University, Ludhiana, cautioned against breeding, a team of vets headed by Dr M P Singh carried out the programme. "We still recall as to how we used to put her on glucose drip and monitored the functioning of her organs. After she gained weight in February, we prepared the course of action for the breeding programme,'' Dr M P Singh said. Even now her health was being monitored.

The zoo had landed in controversy owing to experiments of inbreeding and cross-breeding of lionesses with African lions in the early 80s. As a result, the population touched 90 plus in late 90s but the big cats caught diseases that led to sudden deaths from 1999 to 2005. In1999, following the directions of the Central Zoo Authority of India, the zoo stopped the breeding programme.

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