Mumbai will have to wait till November for Asiatic lions at Byculla zoo

Updated: Jun 24, 2019, 07:30 IST | Arita Sarkar

However we didn't want to bring them in July, which is the month for heavy rains, since we're getting them by road. Zoo officials will now go in the first week of August," said a zoo official

Mumbai will have to wait till November for Asiatic lions at Byculla zoo
Civic officials said this is the only case where BMC has asked for two pairs to ensure that they are able to produce another generation of lions. Representation pic

Mumbaikars will have to wait till November to catch a glimpse of Asiatic lions at the Byculla Zoo. Thanks to the Central Zoo Authority's (CZA) delay in approving the transfer application for the two pairs of lions, zoo officials said they will be able to bring them only in August now, to avoid the heavy rains.

Officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said they received the letter of approval from CZA on Friday. "We had earlier thought that if CZA gives the approval by end of May, we could bring one pair of lions in June. However we didn't want to bring them in July, which is the month for heavy rains, since we're getting them by road. Zoo officials will now go in the first week of August," said a zoo official.

Two pairs to arrive

The official added the lions will be coming from the Sakkarbaug zoo in Junagadh; one pair is being brought for breeding while the other is for public viewing. "Experts believe that younger lions have a higher chance of breeding successfully. We will bring one pair of lions between two to three years and another pair between seven to eight years. Our officials will select the pairs after they go to the Sakkarbaug zoo," said the official.

Civic officials said this is the only case where BMC has asked for two pairs. This is to ensure that they are able to produce another generation of lions. Seven years ago, Byculla zoo had seven to eight African-Asiatic hybrid lions. Civic officials said that since CZA had banned cross breeding of lions in 1992, both the pairs will be pure Asiatic lions.

After the first pair is brought to Byculla zoo, they will be kept in the quarantine section for at least one month. Once they are introduced into their 23,000 square feet enclosure, the officials will make another trip to Junagadh to bring the second pair, which will also have to be quarantined. It is thus likely that Mumbaikars will only be able to see the lions in November. Two keepers will be assigned for them.

Take some birds

During previous discussions between the two zoos, Sakkarbaug had asked for giraffes as an exchange for the Asiatic lions. However, Byculla didn't have any giraffes and the then civic chief Ajoy Mehta had written to the chief secretary of Gujarat to consider sending the lions without an exchange.

Zoo officials, however, said that they will send three to four kinds of birds from Byculla zoo to Junagadh. "We are planning to send one to two pairs of Night Herons, Painted Storks and Grey Cockatiels to Junagadh in exchange for the lions. The birds will be sent with the officials when they go to Junagadh to bring the lions," said the official.

Apart from the lions, zoo officials are also planning on bringing hyenas. They wrote to a zoo in Mysore 15 days ago for the same. They have also received confirmation from a zoo in Indore to bring Indian wolves to Byculla zoo. However, they will have to wait until January 2021 for the work on their enclosure to end.

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