The calf with its mother in the zoo on Sunday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
A Swamp Deer has given birth taking the number of the endangered herbivores in the Alipore zoo to five.
The two-week-old calf has been showing up in the enclosure for the past couple of days. Before that, it had been staying inside the night shelter, away from the public eye.
“The calf has become an attraction in a short time. The kids especially are stopping in front of the enclosure to catch a glimpse of it,” said a one of the keepers of Swamp Deer.
For the past two days, the calf has been seen following its mother around and playing with her. The long play sessions have been ending with a feed.
The zoo authorities still do not know the calf’s gender.
“Swamp Deer are Schedule 1 endangered species under the wildlife protection act of 1972. So the birth of a calf is definitely good news for the zoo and its visitors,” said zoo veterinarian D.N. Banerjee.
Zoo officials were not very optimistic about the calf’s survival when it was born on a rainy afternoon. “It was pouring and the pregnant deer had taken refuge under a withering tree near an artificial canal in the enclosure. After birth, the calf was hanging precariously from the edge of the canal. One of the keepers jumped into the canal and nudged it away. The calf was drenched but we were helpless. We could not go close and comfort it,” said a zoo official.
“The calf is dependent on mother’s milk. If we start handling it, the mother will distance herself from the baby,” said Banerjee.
Swamp Deer are found in the marshlands of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam. Only the male members possess antlers that they shed every year like most members of the deer family.
The zoo authorities are paying special attention to the mother since she is the only source of nourishment of the calf. “Besides sweet potato and saag, we are also giving lots of vitamins to the mother,” said an official.