Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rajkot zoo selected for lion breeding programme


Rajkot zoo selected for lion breeding programme

Kulsum Yusuf | TNN

Times Of India Ahmedabad Edition

Rajkot: Zoo officials in Rajkot were ecstatic last month when their lion couple Mauj and Masti gave birth to five cubs. And now they have one more reason to rejoice. The Central Zoo Authority of India (CZAI) has selected Rajkot zoo along with Hyderabad, Bhopal and New Delhi zoos for lion breeding programme.

CZAI will provide 100 per cent grant for the programme. As many as 25 pairs of lions will be brought in for the programme. In a span of 15 years, Rajkot zoo has successfully bred lions and tigers in captivity. Zoo superintendent Dr M G Maradiya said, “We have a good record in breeding wild cats, which has been acknowledged by CZAI.”

Maradiya added that lions repeat their breeding cycle every two years. “We have not set any target and will try to breed as many lions as possible. However, it a l l d e - pends on the health of the animal. In fact, we are hoping to get the status of a national level zoo with this programme. We are a mini zoo at present,” he said.

The zoo’s origins go back to 1987 when a deer park was established near Aji dam. It was transformed into a zoo in 1992. Since then 10 lion cubs and six tiger cubs were born here. After 1999, the tiger breeding programme was halted as government wanted to concentrate on breeding lions.

At present there are 80 lions in captivity at various zoos in the country, half of which are at Junagadh’s Sakkarbaug zoo. At Rajkot, there are four female and two male lions along with the five new born cubs.

Zoos have been identified as breeding centres as they are seen part of the conservation effort. The main objective of zoos under the National Zoo Policy, 1998, is to strengthen the national efforts in conservation of biodiversity of the country, particularly the wild fauna, which can be achieved by supporting the conservation of endangered wild animal species by giving species which have no chance of survival in wild.

CZAI has decided that Indian zoos must have at least 100 physically, genetically and behaviourally healthy individuals of each critically endangered wild animal species with less than 2,500 individuals left in the wild. CZAI will also fund the creation of the breeding facilities and provide technical manpower for the programme.

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