Maybe it is his sixth sense or perhaps he simply detests female companionship. After leading a solitary life for 28 years at Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan at Byculla, Shiva, the one-horned rhino, seems to have fallen in love with the city.
34-year-old Shiva for the past 90 hours is starving himself, refusing to eat the food that is placed in the transit cage, after probably getting a whiff of the zoo authorities’ plans to shift him to the National Zoological Park in Delhi, where plans are afoot to mate him with a female partner.
To ensure that Shiva doesn’t have to be physically coerced into the transit cage, and hoping that he would willingly stroll into it, the zookeepers came up with a plan to place his food in the coop that was placed beside his shed. They hoped that once he got the hunger pangs, he would walk into it, setting the ball rolling for his departure to the Capital. But, the refusal to step into the cage has put a spanner in the works of the zoo officials.
Authorities, meanwhile, are keeping their fingers crossed and have placed some drinking water in the cage to protect him from dehydration. Dr Sanjay Tripathi, who has been treating Shiva, said, “Rhinos are huge animals that do not need a constant supply of food to survive. They can go without food for 6 to 7 days. For the time being, Shiva not eating food is not a cause for concern, as his wellbeing won’t be endangered even if he does not eat for another four days. It is possible that Shiva has an instinctive feeling that he will be moved to another place, which is why he may not be entering the transit cage.”
Dr Tripathi added that even though the rhino has not eaten since the past few days, they are making sure fresh food is being offered to him daily.
Director of the Byculla Zoo, Anil Anjankar, who is overseeing the process of transporting the animal, said, “We have closed one side of Shiva’s shed. Since rhinos can remain without food for a few days, it means he will eventually move towards his food and we will be able to transport him.”
When asked if another rhino will replace Shiva after the redevelopment of the 152-year-old zoo, Anjankar said, “It is a little difficult to get a pair of rhinos for the zoo even after the redevelopment. If we manage to get space allotted for a pair of rhinos, we will definitely get them.”
Shiva’s keepers, who have been taking care of him since last 20 years, said that they are upset about his move, but are glad he will find a mate for himself in Delhi.
The age of the Jijabhai Bhosle Udyan in Byculla