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Mumbai: Lions first, other animals can wait

Updated on: 10 May,2023 07:43 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sameer Surve |

Exotic species like jaguars, chimpanzees to make zoo home only after big cats settle in

Mumbai: Lions first, other animals can wait

Two lions procured for SGNP from Gujarat in December last year. Pic/Sameer Markande

A zebra-lion exchange seems to have halted the arrival of all other exotic species to the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, popularly known as Byculla zoo. Mumbai had sought two pairs of lions from the Junagadh and Indore zoos, which wanted zebras in exchange. As the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) does not have them, it has been scouting for zebras in European zoos without much success. The process has also delayed the arrival of other species like black jaguars and chimpanzees as these plans will proceed only after the lions arrive and their setup is ready.

The BMC has been struggling to get zebras from international zoos for more than 10 months now. Under the expansion and upgrade plan of Byculla zoo, the BMC plans to introduce new animals to the city. Two years ago, the BMC decided to introduce two pairs of lions from Junagadh and Indore in exchange for zebras, which were to be bought from Ramat Gan Safari Park in Tel Aviv, Israel, at a cost of Rs 80 lakh.

BMC’s attempt to bring zebras from Israel fell through last year. Representation pic
BMC’s attempt to bring zebras from Israel fell through last year. Representation pic

While the civic body appointed an agency for the procurement of the animals, the Directorate General of Foreign Trades (DGFT) rejected this proposal in July 2022, claiming that Israel is not on the updated list of the World Organisation For Animal Health. “After the DGFT rejected our proposal to procure zebras from Israel, we have asked the agency appointed for procurement to find zebras from other countries,” said a BMC official.

Also Read: Mumbai: How routine pedicure keeps keep Byculla zoo’s sole elephant on her toes

“We are trying hard to find the zebras needed in exchange for lions," said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of the zoo, told mid-day. According to Tripathi, the last lioness—a 16-year-old African-Asiatic hybrid named Jimmy—died in 2014. “Jimmy was 16 years and 8 months when she died. She was born at the Byculla zoo to an African lion Amar and Asiatic lioness Anita on March 28, 1998,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Byculla zoo introduced 'Croc -Trail' on Monday, with an underwater viewing deck, billed as the first-of-its-kind in Asia to view crocodiles and gharials. The BMC has made a provision of Rs 140 crore for the Byculla zoo modernisation project. Under the project, the civic body will bring in exotic animal species like the black jaguar, white lion, zebras and chimpanzees. “During the pandemic, the process to bring lions to Mumbai was delayed. Now we are waiting for permission,” Tripathi said, adding that the process to bring in other animals is also likely to be delayed.

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