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Season of warmth for Amar & his wild friends

- Bokaro zoo fights numbing winter with heaters in enclosures, vitamins in diet & an early lunch time

Sole survivor Amar is getting some Christmas warmth at Jawaharlal Nehru Biological Park, Bokaro.

Amar and Ganga, the only white tigers left alive in the zoo, have heaters in their enclosure to beat the chill hovering around six degrees.

For Ganga, who with partner Satpuda, arrived in Bokaro in January 2012 from Bhilai’s Maitribagh zoo, this has been a traumatic year.

But zoo employees are making amends now. Enclosures of Ganga, seven-month-old Amar, as well as the sole lioness, leopards and their cubs have heaters.

Not just hi-profile carnivores, authorities are ensuring that this winter is not hard on the 437 inmates of the zoo.

“We are keeping watch on all the animals to see if they are eating properly. We also serve food before noon so that animals can digest their intake when the sun is still up. In addition, we give Vitamin A, B and C supplements,” said chief vet and zoo in-charge Dr Gautam Chakravarty.

Winter brings behavioural changes in animals.

“Reptiles, including an 18-feet long pythons, go into hibernation. But we are keeping tabs on health. Gangetic gharials and crocodiles come out of their reservoirs to bask in the sun. We are making sure they eat well and, most importantly, that visitors don’t tease them or pelt stones,” said the zoo in-charge.

Enclosures of civets, deer, hyenas and birds, including cranes and flamingos, are shielded from the chill with dry grass and leaves, hay, paddy husk and cardboard.

The zoo, one of Bokaro district’s leading tourist attractions that also gets visitors from neighbouring Bengal, has some answering to do.

White tiger cubs Anthony and Akbar, born in captivity, as well as their father Satpuda died in rapid succession this year. Anthony died accidentally, crushed by his mother, Satpuda of paralysis and Akbar of recurrent diarrhoea.

Earlier, in April-end, Vishnu, a male yellow tiger also brought from Bhilai’s Maitribagh, passed away.

The matter also raised a stink then due to a communication gap between Bokaro Steel Limited, which maintains the Jawaharlal Nehru Biological Park, and district forest department officials.

The latter claimed they were not informed initially of the tiger’s death, a “serious matter”.

Earlier, too, one pregnant hippopotamus had died of heat stroke, sparking widespread concerns whether the Bokaro zoo was doing enough to shield its wild inmates from extremities of weather.

But the zoo authorities now seem to have put their act together.

“We are trying our level-best. Our main concern is whether animals are eating properly,” Chakravarty added. “Animals may be sleepy in winter but their appetite is the indicator of their health.”