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Birsa zoo power couple roars as love-o-meter soars

- Cub hopes at Ormanjhi animal habitat surface as big cats reunite in winter after heartbreak

If you think Ram and Leela have sizzling chemistry in the latest guns-and-gush Bolly flick, think again. Make a trip to Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park at Ormanjhi in Ranchi to discover royal laws of attraction despite adversity.

Authorities at Birsa zoo are hoping for successful captive breeding of the endangered Panthera tigris this year again with resident tiger couple Durga and Sugreev rediscovering their love.

The regal couple at Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park — both around 10-and-half-years old — has had more downs than ups in the recent past.

In April 2011, Durga lost her three cubs soon after their birth. In her sorrow, Durga withdrew from Sugreev. The estrangement lasted till winter last year.

From last winter to this spring, the couple again basked in their love under a mellow winter sun.

From CCTV footage, it looked like Durga was pregnant. The normal gestation period for a tigress is between 104 and 115 days.

But by August, zoo vet Ajay Kumar was sure it was a classic case of pseudo-pregnancy.

Medical science terms it as a condition where an animal exhibits all the signs of pregnancy but without the baby. Bulging stomach, a large abdomen, change in gait, nesting and sometimes even lactating are witnessed, but no newborns arrive.

Larger felines and canines often display signs of pseudo-pregnancy, the vet said.

“Yes, we did expect cubs. But, we finally realised in August that it was a pseudo-pregnancy. One of the reasons can be high progesterone but low oestrogen. We kept Durga under special observation. Now, it seems she has revived her spirits and shown interest in Sugreev again,” the vet added.

So, it is a winter of renewal for Durga and Sugreev.

“Tigers are emotional animals. They take time to bond. But once they do, they do so splendidly,” the vet added. “Both Durga and Sugreev are in the pink of their health and playful. And this time, we hope the zoo gets new cubs.”

With the onset of winter, their diet has also been changed. “Meat intake has been decreased by a kilo to 10kg. This apart, we feed them a mixture of multivitamins and minerals to keep their metabolism level high,” Kumar added.

Other zoo inmates are also getting their winter-special menu. “Herbivores are getting 200gm of mahua fruit each as well as jaggery and multivitamins. Heaters, haystacks and other weather shields are of course routine,” Kumar said.

But all eyes are on big cub royalty.

“Looking at this couple inside the enclosure, you feel they are the true king and queen on this planet,” a zoo caretaker said on Sunday. Absolutely.