Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lions die, heads roll in Uttar Pradesh.

| TNN | Jan 11, 2016, 12.21 PM IST
LUCKNOW: Is UP government not getting the 'best of specimen' in exchange from zoos in other states for its ambitious Etawah lion safari? Or is it the need to raise at least ten lion cubs to open safari for visitors by October 2016, the official deadline for the project, that has put the state government in a hurry?

Removal of three senior officers, two of them the chief wildlife wardens from the post, following the death of lions in the safari since November last year has not stopped lions and cubs from dying at Etawah safari. Contrarily, doubts are being raised on government's dealing of a `biological' project.

A source in UP forest department said, "The health of the lion is certified by the zoos from where we get the big cats in exchange. If the lion is outwardly healthy-looking, we get it. We do not get the lion medically examined by our own doctor." In that case, stress due to transportation and travel could severely impact the vulnerable lions.

Lioness Tapasya who died on Saturday was ill ever since she reached safari in December 28 and was kept separately from the other two lions, a male and a female, brought along from Sakkarbaugh zoo of Gujarat to safari in Etawah. Lion safari authorities said the lioness's haemoglobin count was as low as 5.2 units and she was anaemic. The female had stopped eating.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Tapasya was a pre-breeder and had mothered cubs while her stay at Sakkarbaugh zoo. Seven-year-old Jessica, another lioness brought from Sakkarbaugh zoo is also a pre-breeder. Thinking pre-breeders are strong and would give healthy cubs to the safari, the government did not chose the wild-caught lions, like it did earlier.

Sources share that some of the lions which were brought earlier to Etawah from zoos in other state were caught from the wild and put in zoos for being aberrant or old or injured before they came to Etawah.

Since lionesses learn child-rearing from their mothers and older females in the pride, wanting pre-breeders in exchange from Sakkarbaugh zoo was the obvious choice of the UP government after the death of five cubs in July in the upcoming safari's breeding centre. But before the department could proceed with its plan to pair the lions again, the lioness died.

To make Etawah lion safari project proceed without hiccups, state government has also roped in a 'Gujarati' doctor who has worked with animal husbandry department of Gujarat and zoos for over two decades. But lions continue to die in Etawah.

Officers at Etawah safari rue that they do not have enough literature on lions and hence can not say much on impact of climate, terrain on lions or on their social requirements.
State government had brought under exchange programme from other zoos, four pair of pure bloodline Asiatic lions, for Etawah safari at different points of time in 2013. While Kuber and Heer were brought from Rajkot zoo, Vishnu and Lakshmi, the pair that died in safari in October-November last year, were brought from Hyderabad zoo. Gigo, Grishma, Manan and Kunwari were brought from Sakkarbaugh zoo in Junagarh district of Gujarat.

Manan and Kunwari's was the first pair to be released in safari in April last year. Vishnu and Lakshmi died due to cardio respiratory failure. Both had contracted paralysis within ten-days of their stay in safari.

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There must be a Cause analysis of this, so that the tigers and lions remain healthy now on...Shubhankar Banerjee

"The entire area was sanitised after the incident. What could have made Tapasya die is not known," said an officer.

Etawah safari, at present, has three pairs, Manan and Kunwari, Gigo and Heer and Kuber and Grishma. Two cubs born to lion pair Heer and Gigo and three born to Kuber and Grishma died in July. Three cubs were still-born, two were discarded by the mother, Heer. "While the mother had abandoned one of the cubs right after the birth, the another one she abandoned an hour after the birth. But considering that lions have only 25% survival rate, this was not a rare thing happening at Etawah safari," said a senior official.

The tragedy, however, has made forest department put the mating plans for lions on hold for now. The department was getting a `mating-plan' for lions ready for successful breeding this time. Lion pairs were also being put on compatibility-test.

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