A NEW pair of Asiatic lions arrived at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on Friday morning. Both the animals are aged three years. The pair, a male and a female, were acquired from the Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden in Junagadh, Gujarat under an animal exchange programme.
The exchange was approved by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) on October 31. In exchange for the lions, the SGNP administration sent a pair of tigers, Bajrang (6 years old) and Durga (3 years old), to the Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden.
The decision of acquiring the lions came after the city’s oldest captive lion, Ravindra (17) died due to age-related issues earlier in September. After Ravindra’s death, the authorities were left with only one lion called Jespa (11).
The SGNP has a 12-hectare land that has been earmarked as territory for the lions. Starting from 1975, there used to be Lion Safaris inside the park regularly, which became the main revenue generator as well. Those lions were mainly hybrid offspring of Asiatic and African lions born in circuses.
However, after the formation of CZA in 1992, the breeding of hybrid animals was prohibited in the Zoo and the population of lions started to decline in SGNP.
G Mallikarjun, director of SGNP and conservator of forests said that the new lions are being identified as D-11 and D-12 and these animals were born in the Sakkarbaugh Zoo from a lion, that was captured in the forests. Mallikarjun also maintained that both Bajrang and Durga were caught from different areas in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra.
“Considering the steep decline of the lion population in the park, we had to stop the lion safaris and now with almost no lion left in the park, we wrote to the CZA, seeking permission to get new lions. We are hopeful that with the arrival of new animals we will be able to start the safaris soon,” Mallikarjun told The Indian Express.
Pawan Sharma, honorary wildlife warden and president of Resqink Association of Wildlife Welfare said that the animals are being kept in a quarantine centre before they are released into their natural habitat.
“The animals have been brought from a different environment and are now being placed in a new situation. So, they will need some time to get adjusted to the climatic conditions,” Sharma said. He said that besides introducing the lions to safaris, they will be used in breeding programmes as well.