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Animals endangered even in zoos

Times of India, New Delhi, September 17, 2014


Animals, critically endangered in the wild, are now threatened even in zoos. Lucknow zoo could not find partners for rhino, giraffe and hoolocks as ther zoos have none to spare for exchange. The worst effect of it is highly 'in-bred' population in zoos. And that's the prime reason why animals in zoo are either not breeding or giving birth to genetically weak offsprings dying with days of birth. Breeding of endangered species is a defined aim for zoos but in Lucknow zoo, there are many endangered animals, apart from white tigers and Royal Bengal Tigers, that have never bred. Simulations for Hoolocks but they never bred: Hoolock gibbon Kaalu, also the most popular inmate, was brought in 1988 from Dehradun. Decade later, Rani from Mumbai was paired with him. But the pair never bred.


Since hoolocks are found in Assam, zoo authorities thought about simulating climatic conditions of tropical forests of northeast in their enclosure. But before it could be done, female died. "We are searching a female," says the director. Hoolock gibbon is the only ape found in India. It is protected under Schedule (I) and is highly endangered. Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has set up a breeding centre in Arunachal Pradesh to propagate the species. No 'pure bloodline' Asiatic lions to breed: Lucknow zoo brought three hybrid lions — Prince, Shivangi and Aastha from Chandigarh zoo on April 1, 2003. Being a cross between Asiatic and African lions, they were never paired because law does not allow propagation of hybrids. After Aastha died now only two lions remain. Zoo is looking for a pair of pure bloodline Asiatic lions. Two pairs which had come for Etawah safari have been sent to their destination.


Breeding loan for Chimps: Jason, the male chimp has a history of 'partner-bashing'. He has never responded to 'sexual' advances of Nikita, the female. In 2009, zoo authorities thought of bringing Chhajju, a lone male chimp in Kanpur zoo as a breeding loan. "But now Nikita would be sent there. Only thing to be seen is that separation should not lead to any kind of shock to Nikita and Jason because they are used to living together," says the director. Lucknow zoo got chimps in exchange of one of its popular inmate, baby giraffe Khushi in 2007 from Mysore zoo. Both Jason and Nikita have a different parentage and there could not be anything like siblings-not-ready-to-mate. Need to bring in fresh blood for Giraffe: Lucknow zoo is hunting for a partner for its female giraffe Sujata left alone after the death of her ten-year long partner, Anubhav, in January 2014.


Giraffes are not natives of India. After efforts to get giraffe from zoos in India under exchange programme failed, Lucknow zoo has sought permission from state government to let it bring one male giraffe from other countries. "There is a need to add to the gene pool," says the director. The only time Sujata's foal survived was in 2005, Khushi. Others born in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2013 did not survive. Anubhav was brought from Alipore zoo, Kolkata, in 2002 and Sujata was brought from the same place in 2003 to Lucknow. Sujata is carrying again which zoo authorities discovered only after Anubhav's death. Lohit continues to be alone: Breeding age of rhinos is anything between 11 years to 35 years. The '84-born Lohit has already reached the wrong side of that age but Lucknow zoo could not find a companion for the rhino since April 6, 1995, when he was brought here. Patna zoo authorities refused to part with their female for want of a better deal like giraffe. Female affection has always alluded Lohit. Lohit was born (and partially brought up) at Kanpur Zoo on December 6, 1984.