By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE, Feb 9: To avoid outbreaks of bacterial or viral diseases in big cats, which have genetically become weak owing to massive inter-breeding, the Punjab Wildlife Department plans to import pairs of lions, leopards and tigers for the purpose.
Wildlife officials said on Friday that they would bid for each pair of lions, leopards and tigers. They said they would initially keep the animals in Lahore Zoo, which were expected to land in two months. They said they decided to add new animals to the existing lot keeping in view the inter-breeding issue. Owing to inter-breeding, animals become genetically weak and their body resistance becomes low in case of outbreaks of bacterial or viral diseases, they said.
In summer 2006, they said three Lahore Zoo tigers fell victims to a blood parasite disease called trypnosomises. They said the reason for the spread of the disease was mosquitoes and oppressive weather.
At present, Lahore Zoo has six tigers and four lions and most of them were born out of inter- breeding, they said.
The officials said the inter-breeding issue was first raised in a meeting of the Zoo Management Committee in October, 2006, adding experts in the meeting stressed the need for importing new lions, leopards and tigers.
To meet demand for veterinary doctors to treat sick animals and deal with occasional outbreaks of bacterial and vital diseases, they said the department was planning to introduce new posts in Punjab.
Presently, they said no doctor was working in the wildlife department. There are five vacant posts of veterinary doctors in Loie Bhair Wildlife Park, Rawalpindi, Jallo Wildlife Park, Lahore Wildlife Park, Gutwala, Faisalabad and Lahore Zoo, they said.
They said Dr Saleem Nasir was working as deputy director in Lahore Zoo not as a doctor.
Wildlife Director-General Imtiaz Tajwar, when contacted, said though Dr Saleem Nasir was a deputy director, he was also working as a doctor. He said Lahore Zoo had another doctor — Sabira.
About five vacant posts in Punjab, he said the department had received five nominations from the Punjab Public Service Commission but none joined, as perhaps they might have got better opportunities.
About service structures of vet doctors in the wildlife department, Mr Tajwar said it would soon introduce one post of grade 19 and three of grade 18, adding parks and zoos in Punjab would each have a veterinary doctor.
To another question, he said the wildlife secretary had asked him to import new animals from the cat family to overcome inter-breeding problem.