| Sheru, the lion cub at Patna zoo, learns soccer skills in his enclosure on Sunday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh |
A 25-year-old wait for wildlife lovers to catch a glimpse of a lion cub at Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park has finally come to an end.
Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi on Sunday released the five-and-a-half-month-old male cub, one of the two born on August 15 last year, in the lions’ enclosure for the first time.
The lion cub, which the zoo employees fondly call Sheru, was born to a pair of Asiatic lions, Vishal and Saraswati. However, the mother refused to feed Sheru’s sibling, which was born weak. This led to further deterioration in his health and he could manage to survive only a day.
After releasing the cub, Modi said: “I am delighted to see this lion cub at the zoo. This cub has been brought up with a lot of effort. After the mother refused to feed the cub, the zoo employees had to hand-feed him. He survived on goat’s milk for the first three months and thereafter, started to consume meat. Weighing 1.2kg at the time of birth, the dedicated efforts of the zoo employees helped him gain the present weight of 25kg.”
The zoo employees attributed the lioness’s refusal to feed and apprehension of her attacking the cub to the decision of keeping the young one in seclusion for almost six months.
“The lion cub would be kept at the zoo veterinary hospital at night. Only when he gets acquainted with other lions would he remain inside the enclosure all the time. At present, his daily diet comprises 2.5kg chicken and 250gm liver against an adult lion’s intake of 9kg buffalo meat and 3kg chicken,” said Modi.
At present, there are five lions at Patna zoo, including the male cub. Apart from his parents, the remaining are two female African hybrid lions.
Patna zoo director Abhay Kumar said they would soon make the Asiatic lions mate so that cubs are born this year as well.
Many other zoo inmates are also expecting babies over the next few months. Sources said four rhinos, a giraffe and a tigress are expected to deliver in the next few months.
Considering the existing population of lions and the potential of Patna zoo in the breeding programme of big cats, Central Zoo Authority (CZA), New Delhi, sanctioned Rs 71.22 lakh for developing lion conservation area on the zoo premises.
“Developing lion conservation area aims to provide an off-display area to the lions, where they can enjoy their natural surroundings. We have earmarked the rear portion of the existing lion enclosure for developing the conservation area. The project would be completed in six months,” said the zoo director.
Moreover, a proposal for developing a rhino conservation area is pending with the CZA. Zoo authorities are also working on plans to renovate the reptile houses.