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Chicken, not rabbit, for snow leopard

- Jetlagged from Czech Republic, Sici’s name could change in Darjeeling

April 20: Sici, the three-year-old snow leopard, which arrived at the Darjeeling zoo from the Czech Republic on Saturday, is trying to settle into a new life, zoo officials said on Sunday.

The new life for the “jetlagged” male would mean not just a new environment but also a change in its food habits, companions, and perhaps even its name.

To start with, Sici, has to give up on his liking for rabbits. It’s only chicken for him right now and later his spread would consist of mutton and beef, said officials.

Rabbits are not readily available in Darjeeling and so the “young adult” will have to give up on it. At Zoo Jihlava in the Czech Republic from where Sici was flown in, his meal often included one rabbit.

Sici arrived at Calcutta airport on Friday from Prague and was accorded one of the fastest transit clearances after deboarding from the Emirates airline flight, a privilege reserved for a handful of VVIPs.

Half an hour was all it took the snow leopard to go from the aircraft to an air-conditioned van waiting for him at the airport to take him to Darjeeling. He needed the special treatment of because any exposure to Calcutta’s summer is fraught with the risk of a fatal heat stroke.

“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 of Zoo Jihlava, told Metro.

She said in Jihlava, three persons used to look after Sici and the snow leopard was familiar with them only. Now he would have to get familiarised with new set of people.

A.K. Jha, director of Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling, said Sici had to travel for 30 hours to reach Darjeeling from the Jihlava Zoo.

In Darjeeling, Sici has not been able to meet his new companions — nine snow leopards, four of them female — immediately. He will be quarantined for about a month.

Sici was given ORS mixed with water and will be given light food, which means 2kg of chicken.

“We usually give snow leopards of his age meat ranging from 2 to 2.5kg. We gave him a kg of chicken in the morning and followed it up with another kilogram in the evening,” said Jha.

“The Czech people have named him Sici but his name could change here,” said Jha.