India: Leopards allowed to breed at rescue center – politics at play?

Of leopard cubs and forest rules

Debashis Bhaumik

COOCH BEHAR, April 27: A leopard named Kali delivered two cubs at the Leopard Rescue Centre, Rasik-bil on Wednesday. Another leopard, Gouri, is also on the family way. The news was welcomed by many, especially the visitors. But it raised some questions too.

According to wild life activists the Central Zoo Authority norms state that carnivorous wild animals in captivity should not be allowed to multiply themselves. But animals of rare species do not come under the purview of this guideline. Mating under captivity is restricted for some other animals including herbivores. Multiplying of these animals is not encouraged because the government would have to bear the cost of maintaining the population. Moreover, there is the question of space to accommodate them.

“It is therefore suggested that rescued wild animals should be released in forests after making them acquainted with open-air wild life,” the activists state.

The two female leopards ~ Kali and Gouri ~ were brought from the Madarihat Rescue Centre to Rasik-bil Rescue Centre to attract tourists and visitors. To end their loneliness, a male adult leopard named Shankar was brought to Rasik-bil from Madarihat on 20 July 2006. All of them were kept in open enclosures at the Rasik-bil rescue centre. While Kali has delivered two cubs that are yet to be named, Gouri is an expectant mother.

When asked, a senior forest official said under condition of anonymity that permission for mating of leopards or other wild animals is allowed in some special cases depending on situations. “It is allowed in zoos, but a rescue centre is not a zoo. It is a common practice that political decisions are taken ignoring technical opinions to earn popularity,” he said.

He refrained from divulging why the rules were bent in the case of Rasik-bil. clid=10&theme=&usrsess=1&id=154837

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