When big cats nibble on bamboo leaves
8 Nov 2008, 0053 hrs IST, Prashant Dayal, TNN
AHMEDABAD: He salivates over raw meat. But on Friday, at lunchtime Raja was nonchalantly nibbling bamboo leaves. This tiger at Ahmedabad’s Kamla
Nehru Zoo gives a break to his fangs and chews on greens like the other carnivores of this zoo and zoos across the country.
Not many know, but carnivores have an instinctive way of regulating their digestive system, like dogs, by feeding on green grass after a heavy meat diet. Veterinary experts managing zoos, thus give a diet break to the big cats once every week, to defy the popular Hindi proverb — Sher bhi kabhi ghaas khata hai kya? (Does a lion ever eat grass?)
“All carnivores eat grass every week. The grass makes them throw up and cleanses the stomach and the rest of the digestive system. Whenever the beasts feel that there is some infection in their stomachs, they eat grass to flush these ailments out,” says Dr RK Sahu, superintendent of the Kankaria zoo. In Ahmedabad zoo these cats devour at least 110 kg of meat everyday. In winters each lion needs 10-12 kgs of meat while its summer needs are between 8-10 kgs.
Lions, tigers and leopards in the wild, chase and hunt food, thus giving themselves the much needed workout, unlike zoo animals, and yet eat meat only twice or thrice a week. Big cats in the zoo lead very comfortable and sedentary lives. Every day between 10.30 am and 11 am they are fed, without having to move a muscle.
“Since they do not get much of exercise we decided to give them a break once every week. So every Friday they are seen devouring grass on the day to cleanse their systems and the zoo is closed to visitors,” said Sahu. This zoo has a pair of lions, two pairs of tigers and leopards.
Manager of Mysore zoo, Shiv Anna told TOI over the phone, “Our zoo is closed on Tuesdays, when carnivores are not fed meat.” “The unique aspect is that the big cats seem to know their diet needs. Even if we give them more, they do not touch it,” said Sahu.
“They are so used to the fasting schedule, that on Friday they are not tempted to eat meat,” he says.
Ranibaug Zoo Mumbai is closed on Thursdays, says superintendent Dr MS Karwale and Surat zoo is closed on Mondays, when enclosures are cleaned up says superintendent Dr PC Mehta.