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Mumbai: Lioness fights off only lion, refuses to mate

With the belligerence that Shobha shows to Ravindra, her only possible mate at the Borivli national park, forest authorities worry how the number of lions will increase

When your species is endangered, animal instinct would demand that you stop being picky for the sake of continuity. But Shobha, a resident of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, seems unconcerned with such rules and niceties.


The Family Fang: Shobha with her cubs Jespa, Gopa and Little Shobha, who is no more. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The lioness’ regular brawls with Ravindra — her only likely mate at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivli — have denuded the hope that the two would ever make cubs. 

A month ago, the two bickered so intensely that Shobha was left licking her wounds. But, you wouldn’t blame her for all the aggression; it’s been less than a year that her mate, Badshah, died.

That’s when the forest authorities played matchmaker, and decided she would take to Ravindra and eventually mate with him if they were made to stay together. But the friction hasn’t waned, as the authorities found out. In fact, they can’t risk letting the two out together into the woods during a safari due to an incident in March. 

An official from SGNP, requesting anonymity, said,  “After the death of Badshah, we released both Ravindra and Shobha together a few times into the woods, but there was lots of aggression between the two, leading to fights.

In the recent fight that took place over a month back, Shobha suffered severe injuries on her right flank, while Ravindra hurt his right eye.”

In the second week of October last year, Shobha and Ravindra, born a year apart, had tried to mate, but ended up with nothing more than bruises, and were thence separated, each in their own enclosure. Distance, alas, failed to make their hearts grow fonder. The tensions prevail.

Their aversion to each other is all the more confounding for their caretakers, considering that the two were brought together to SGNP from Bangalore’s Bannerghatta National Park in 2009. Incidentally, they had been traded for a pair of white tigers, Razia and Arya.

However, their mutual crankiness alone is not why their procreation is at risk. Shobha is having trouble conceiving, too.

“The animal is not keeping well. She has some gynaecological problem, but her treatment is in progress, and she is responding positively to it,” said SGNP director Vikas Gupta, the chief conservator of forest.

Major draw

SGNP’s lion safaris are a prime attraction for park visitors. At present, there are four lions in the sanctuary, including Shobha’s two cubs Jespa and Gopa. The safari goers are taken on a bus ride of the 20-hectare forests.
On a daily basis, more than 200 visitors go on the safari to see lions. Their numbers shoot up beyond 400 during weekends
and vacations.

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