The Telegraph
Thursday , December 20 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beefed up love for African lion quintet
- 6kg buffalo meat daily for each of the 18-month-old cubs puts a stop to squabbles

A royal tantrum merits some meaty love, says Tata Steel Zoological Park.

So when Jumbo, Ed, Zoya, Salya and Kimu, the pure-bred and hand-reared cubs imported from Pretoria’s National Zoological Gardens, fought among each other, the Jamshedpur zoo authorities 10 days ago have increased their daily intake of buffalo meat from 4 kg every alternate day to 6kg every day.

After all, growing boys and girls — the cubs are 18 months now — need larger helpings.

More beef apart, one kilogram of chicken is given to the leonine quintet once a week. Vitamin AD3E and calcium are a daily affair.

“Growling stomachs perhaps equal bad temper and fighting. The cubs had started fighting with each other, a marked change from their usually playful behaviour. We were confused and then thought of finding a way out. Increasing food intake did the trick. After all, a full stomach is the best way to keep cubs in good humour,” a keeper said.

Cut marks were found on Ed, Jumbo and Salya due to fighting inside the four-acre enclosure, he added. “But now, the cubs, three females among them, are back to their playful best.”

Zoo vet Manik Palit confirmed each cub was being given 6 kg of beef daily. “But we have slashed the quantity of chicken. Earlier, they got 1.5 kg of chicken on alternate days. Now, they get one kilogram a week,” he said.

Palit said they had to very careful about the diet of cubs for the first three years as that had a bearing on breeding later. “Lions who are better fed breed better. Though the diet is increased gradually, we rushed it a bit to keep the lion cubs in good humour. We want them to be playful and not fight among themselves,” he said.

He said that the hike in beef — from 3kg every two days to 4kg every alternate day to 6kg daily — is being done after much thought and supervision. “We are also in regular touch with the South African zoo for the quintet’s proper care,” he added.

Nutritionists say that beef is a good source of protein, riboflavin, niacin, zinc, vitamins C and B12, iron, phosphorus, copper and selenium. It is also low in sodium, which is healthy. Beef is very high in cholesterol, but lions can deal with that way better than human beings can.

Besides food, cubs are also receiving royal treatment in their first Indian winter. Double heaters have been installed inside cells to keep them warm. “It is winter and chill is increasing, especially at night. We don’t take any risk,” a keeper said.

Royal Bengal lovebirds Shanti and Raghav and their cub daughter Dona are also getting the same warm treatment in the tiger enclosure. Double heaters have been put inside their cells. “Shanti and the cub stay in one cell while Raghav in another,” Palit said, adding round-the-clock vigil is kept outside both lion and tiger enclosures.