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Shh! The cubs are asleep

- Tata zoo keeps leopard births low-key for privacy’s sake

Sun sign Aries, shares birth date with poet Maya Angelou.

Animal lovers and zodiac buffs will rejoice over the birth of two leopard cubs on April 4 at Tata Steel Zoological Park, Jamshedpur, a welcome addition to the dwindling numbers of the Panthera pardus species classified near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

But the spotted furry twins born to Basanti (7) and her partner Ved (6) have not had any big bash so far due to health and privacy concerns.

An overprotective Basanti has not left her enclosure since her delivery at 10.30pm a week ago and is shielding her cubs from all eyes. Caretakers said the twins haven’t opened their eyes yet.

Bipul Chakrabarty, Tata zoo director, said they were thrilled with the event but keeping it low-key. “The Central Zoo Authority has mandated guidelines about not spreading the news of captive births. Otherwise, visitors demand to see the infants and tease their parents to catch a better glimpse. All these disturb the animals. Big cats are known to be extremely private,” said Chakrabarty.

He added they had not even determined the sex of the cubs.

“This is their private bonding time. All we want now is to ensure the health of the twins and the mother. Summer has crossed the 40°C mark and the mercury will keep rising over the next couple of months,” he said.

Zoo officials are on an overdrive about Basanti’s diet — food, vitamin supplements and water.

“Basanti seems to be doing fine. But to prevent her from dehydration, we are focusing on her diet. Water, liquid ORS, milk, vitamin supplements are regulars. She also eats 3.5kg meat six days a week,” said Chakrabarty.

Basanti and Ved came to Jamshedpur in 2008. Earlier, they had been rescued by Kaziranga National Park from a tea estate in Assam and sent to Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, also in Kaziranga. The couple settled at Tata zoo amicably and mated the same year, giving birth to son Jumbo and daughter Etu, but only the latter survived.

Another leopard couple, Mithun (9) and Sheeba (10), never mated.

There’s another regal celebration in the offing on zoo premises. Royal Bengal Tiger couple Shanti and Raghav will see their darling daughter Dona turning a year old on April 16. Tata zoo will host a special cake-cutting ceremony in her honour with staff and schoolchildren.

Too bad Dona — a hardcore carnivore — wouldn’t appreciate a slice. Nor would she understand the thrill of sharing her birth date with an all-time great — Charles Chaplin.

Do you think zoo visitors need to be sensitised on how to behave?
Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com