Maharajbagh has problem of plenty
25 May 2009, 0412 hrs IST, Vijay Pinjarkar , TNN
NAGPUR: The female tiger cub 'Jai' has been lucky to find an open enclosure in Maharajbagh Zoo. But there are eight other wild cats — 3 female tiger cubs and 5 leopards — in the zoo for the past six months whose fate is uncertain.
Of these, the three tiger cubs whose mother went missing in Junona forest of Chandrapur in January, are growing well. They too would soon need bigger enclosure. The fate of five leopards is also uncertain. A male-female pair now named as 'Raja' and 'Rani' were caught from Vejgaon (Sarandi) in Central Chanda after a couple of human deaths in animal attacks. Two other leopards named 'Viru' and 'Basanti' were brought with injuries from Chicholi and Lonkhairi in Mul forest range in January. A female cub 'Anamika' landed in a injured condition from Dongargaon in Bhandara district in July 2008.
The zoo is overcrowded with so many wild cats. A section of conservationists feel that after such a long time in captivity it is not right to release these leopards in the wild. These animals also do not deserve the extremely small cages they are being kept in.
B Majumdar, former principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), says: "Maharajbagh may not be interested in keeping three female tiger cubs. I have written to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). They will write to various zoos who may take them. Many zoos are also not interested in accepting leopards."
Poonam Dhanwatey, trustee of Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT), says: "The condition of carnivores captured from the wild is pathetic. They are actually kept in trap cages barely having space for the animal to get up and turn. Inability to move is resulting in degeneration of muscles. Cages are kept in the open in the scorching heat in cruel conditions. The leopards should be shifted to larger enclosures immediately."
Wildlifer Kundan Hate feels the caught leopards now don't have any future in the wild. Two of these leopards— 'Viru' and 'Basanti'— could have been released immediately after they were treated but the forest officials did not even come to enquire about them. Now shifting them to other zoos is the only option.
"It has been five years since the man-animal conflict has been raging in Chandrapur district but the state government has not come out with concrete solution to ease the conflict. Not one rescue centre has come up in Chandrapur to take care of problem animals," said conservationist Prafulla Bhamburkar.
Dr S S Bawaskar, officer-incharge of the zoo, says, "We already have three leopards 'Ajay', 'Samruddhi' and 'Riddhi' on display and one more pair can be accommodated. We are negotiating with the Bhilai zoo to exchange a pair of leopard with five sambars. The Bhilai zoo has written to the CZA and we are awaiting their nod." On tiger cubs, he said, "I don't think these cubs can be shifted for another five months. By that time, things may be better at Maharajbagh."