odd one out: One among girls Kimu, Zoya and Salya will pair up with Ed or Jumbo (not in picture) for Birsa zoo
How’s this for a Christmas gift? A pair of pure-bred African lion cubs may leave Jamshedpur for Ranchi by December-end.
This year in June, Tata Steel Zoological Park in Jamshedpur became India’s first zoo after 1947 to get blue-blooded African lion cubs from National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria. The five — three lionesses among them — quickly became the steel city’s resident royals and even got named by citizens.
When the majestic quintet went public in late September — after quarantine stints and private outings — boys Ed and Jumbo and girls Salya, Zoya and Kimu, like all stars, got their share of fans who identified and admired each one’s traits.
Now, Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ormanjhi on the outskirts of the capital wants a share of the glory.
Though authorities are still tight-lipped, a pair of Tata zoo lion cubs may soon head for the 250-acre Ormanjhi zoo with over 1,100 animals across 65 species, grow up there and mate.
The young cub duo will have two leonine nannies — hybrid lionesses Saraswati (18) and Sundari (16) — who may cast an indulgent eye on their antics.
Grande dame Sundari in June upped her glam quotient by being adopted by desi girl Priyanka Chopra for a year.
Still, Sundari and Saraswati are too old to mate, rue zoo officials. Even if they have an autumnal fling, they won’t have offspring.
“Once a young lion pair arrive from Jamshedpur, we’ll look forward to their growing up and mating here in the Ormanjhi zoo. Our animal diversity will get a royal shot in the arm with pure-bred African lions,” said an official.
Tata zoo will also send a male nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) to its capital counterpart for mating. Ranchi zoo has three male antelopes and an equal number of females, but they seem so bored with each other that their population is stagnant for over a decade. A new entrant will definitely enliven things up and create a healthy gene pool.
A team from Ranchi zoo will go to Jamshedpur on November 12 to get the nilgai and inspect the lion cubs.
But Birsa zoo director P.K. Verma preferred to keep his cards close to his chest. “These developments may be happening at the level of chief wildlife warden,” Verma said.
Chief wildlife warden A.K. Malhotra couldn’t be contacted.
But a source in the know maintained that negotiations had started.
“According to norms, within the state the chief wildlife warden issues permission for import or export of animal species in zoos or otherwise. When Tata zoo sought permission to import African lion cubs, there was a clause in the agreement that a pair would be transferred to Ranchi zoo. If all goes well, Ranchi residents can hear the roar of African lions by December-end,” he said.
Tata zoo director Bipul Chakravarty confirmed the nilgai export. “Yes, we have agreed to send a male nilgai to Ranchi zoo on breeding loan,” he said.
On the more weighty issue of the lion cub pair, he said: “Yes, the wildlife warden has been asking us to give a pair of lion cubs to Ranchi zoo. Talks are on but we haven’t received a formal proposal yet.”
Jamshedpur’s loss is Ranchi purr.
Do you approve the transfer of lion cubs to Ranchi?