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Thiruvananthapuram zoo's super mother retires from scene

Times of India, New Delhi, September 14, 2014


She has been the super mom of the zoo, her fond tales of motherly affection recounted every now and then by the zoo keepers. Karishma, the 18-year-old tigress, now doesn't go anywhere near her progeny anymore, often lies down on the cemented floor of the enclosure, occasionally letting out a feeble growl. Her retina suffered permanent damage a few months ago and has become blind, her keepers now feed her by hand. Sindhu and Seena, the 21-year-old lionesses give her company in the off-exhibit facility. Karishma, Sindhu and Seena, who were the most popular exhibits in the zoo for over a decade, have now been taken completely off-exhibit. Behind the main enclosures where younger, healthy exhibits continue to attract the visitors, the elderly are now confined to another cage facing a grass field where they are let off to roam around periodically.


The keeper who feeds Karishma every day puts sliced meat into her mouth and he vows that he is not scared. "She has always been a gentle animal. She recognizes those who have reared her by their voice. There is no way she is going to hurt us," the zoo-keeper said. The damage to her eyes is irreparable with retina completely detached off the eyes. She has been mother to nine cubs and she is known to be a good mother. Once one of her cubs had slipped into a slit near the delivery cage and normally animals won't rear off-springs that are touched by humans. However, this cub was lifted by one of the keepers and placed it near her.


"Much to our surprise, she accepted the cub and fed it. It's rare to see such display of motherhood among animals," said S Abu, who once worked in the zoo and is now the superintendent of the Natural History Museum. Sindhu and Seena recently underwent a filleting surgery during which their last phalanx was removed to prevent claws from angulating inwards and piercing the paws. As per the guidelines of central zoo authority (CZA), every zoo is responsible not to display its sick animals. "All three of them have always been so popular among the regular visitors. We are planning to video-document their days at the off-exhibit facility," said Jacob Alexander, zoo veterinarian.