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Leopard cub’s death an accident, say experts

- Autopsy confirms Bobby died of asphyxiation, pros rule out zoo negligence

Jamshedpur, May 24: The 13-month-old male leopard cub Bobby, who died at his Tata zoo enclosure last afternoon, fell prey to asphyxiation, post-mortem has confirmed.

The cub died within seconds after eating a big chunk of beef served around 4pm. Bobby and his mother Sheeba were eating in the same cell when tragedy struck. Satya, Bobby’s brother, was having his food in another cell.

“The caretaker informed me over phone that the cub was feeling uneasy right after the first bite. I rushed from my chamber to the nearby enclosure, but it was too late. I tried to revive the cub by pumping his chest. His tongue had turned bluish,” zoo vet Manik Palit told The Telegraph.

The carcass was burnt in an incinerator on zoo premises last evening.

According to the vet, Bobby was served about 2.5kg of beef. “Carnivores have a habit of eating fast and Bobby was no exception. He slipped in a quite a big chunk of beef. Unfortunately, it got stuck in his throat and killed him,” said the seasoned vet.

Palit said the beef served was not boneless. “Carnivores also chew bones. So there was no need to serve them boneless meat. It’s a routine practice here. Such incidents happen across the country. But, this is the first time it has taken place at Tata zoo,” Palit added.

Tata zoo managing committee member Rajnish Kumar said the cub was healthy and had no pre-existing medical conditions.

Experts also said that the cub’s death was accidental and ruled out any negligence by zoo authorities. Swapan Ghosh, consultant at Calcutta-based Alipore zoo, said: “Death of a 13-month-old cub can be an accident. I don’t find any negligence on part of the zoo.”

He added that beef could be served to cubs once they were two-and-a-half years old. “Thirteen-month old cubs can have food on their own. However, quantity of food served depends on the respective zoo management,” Ghosh said.

Jamshedpur-based animal health expert V.K. Singh echoed Ghosh, saying that cubs are served beef once they are two-and-a-half-month old. The amount of food served to the cubs has not been slashed as they are enjoying the daily intake. “We served them two kg of meat in winter and are serving them a bit more now. Adequate food is needed as the cubs are growing,” Palit said.

The zoo now has four male leopards — Mithun, Ved, Satya and Albatross — and three females — Sheeba, Basanti and Etu. Satya and Albatross are cubs.