Saturday, August 03, 2013

Where are 2 lions of Chhatbir zoo hiding?

Where are 2 lions of Chhatbir zoo hiding?
The Times of India

Two lions that stepped out of their enclosure in Chhatbir zoo situated on the Chandigarh-Patiala road two days ago have not yet returned or been located, heightening the possibility of them going missing even as the authorities claimed otherwise.

Sources told TOI that a 20-year-old Asiatic lion and a two-year-old lioness were let out to roam within the lion safari - an area spread over eight hectares with shrubs and grasslands - on Saturday. The lioness, Heli, was brought from Gujarat, while the lion, Raman, was born in Chhatbir itself. Worryingly, for the past 48 hours, zookeepers have not sighted them despite scouring for them a number of times. "We had carried search operations and went in our vehicle to trace them. But they have not been spotted yet," said a zoo employee.

However, zoo director Kuldeep Kumar does not believe anything was amiss. "The lions were let open in the safari which is within the zoo. As a habit, they return to eat food in the den. Maybe they felt uncomfortable. But they are not missing," said Kumar. Punjab chief wildlife warden Darinder Singh too echoed Kumar"s sentiments. "It is nothing unusual. Whenever lions feel uncomfortable in their den, they roam in the safari for days and return whenever they feel like," he said. "Lions do not require food daily like humans. Usually, they kill some small animal from the forest itself. People are safe while visiting the safari as metal bars are installed all around for security reasons," he added. According to experts, lions prefer free spaces in the forest. They do not feel at ease in closed and dense forests.

Missing or not, the prolonged absence of the two lions has alarmed the staff. An eight-month-old cub, Abhay, has been confined to his enclosure and not allowed to roam freely. "We cannot leave the new lion out until the other two return to their den as they usually get into a fight," said the employee.

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