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- Lifestyle change for Sici

At his new home, Sici has to give up his liking for rabbit on the daily menu and change the time he likes to have dinner. He may even have to accept a new name.

“Rabbits are not readily available in Darjeeling, so he is being fed chicken,” said an official at Darjeeling’s Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, where the three-year-old snow leopard from the Czech Republic arrived on Saturday morning. “The menu will later include mutton and beef. At Zoo Jihlava in the Czech Republic, his earlier home, Sici’s meal often included a rabbit.”

For now, the snow leopard, who was accorded one the fastest transit clearances at Calcutta airport on Friday to protect him from the city’s heat, is on light food. “He’s on light food because he has travelled a lot…. You can say he is jetlagged. On his arrival in Darjeeling around 7am on Saturday, he was given ORS.” said zoo director A.K. Jha.

Light food means 2kg of chicken, instead of red meat. “We usually give snow leopards of Sici’s age 2-2.5kg of meat. On Saturday, we gave Sici a kilo of chicken in the morning and followed it up with another kilo in the evening. Later, we will give him mutton and beef,” said Jha.

The snow leopard, who will be quarantined for a month before being allowed to meet his companions, will also have to change his biological clock. “We gave him dinner at 9pm yesterday to correspond to his 6pm dinner time at Zoo Jihlava. Slowly, we will advance the timing to 6pm (Indian time), as that is when all inmates of the zoo are given food,” said Jha.

Before Sici’s arrival, the Darjeeling zoo had nine snow leopards, of which two males and three females are at a Topkedara enclosure near Ghoom. “We might shift Sici to Topkedara enclosure later,” said Jha. “If the authorities so decide, we will give him a new name.”

“It’ll take more than a week for him to get used to the new conditions, environment and people,” Michaela Eliasova, the annual record keeper at Zoo Jihlava, told Metro. She said in Jihlava, three persons used to look after Sici.

Jha said Sici had to travel 30 hours to reach Darjeeling from Zoo Jihlava. “In the past month he was taken to the Prague airport at least three times. He could not board the flight because of some technical problems.”

He had flown around 7,000km from Prague to reach Calcutta, a distance covered in 10 hours and 45 minutes with a two-and-a-half-hour stopover at Dubai airport. In just half an hour he was shifted from the aircraft to an air-conditioned van waiting for him at the airport to take him to Darjeeling. He needed the special treatment because any exposure to Calcutta’s summer is fraught with the risk of a fatal heat stroke.