It's literally a 'tall order' for Patna zoo staff

The male giraffe has been separated from the mother and the new-born at Patna zoo. MOHAN PRASAD

Five years after they were brought from San Diego zoo in the US, the three giraffes – one male and two females- in Patna have reasons to be happy. A new member has joined their family. Last week, the female giraffe, Shanti, gave birth to a healthy female calf.

An overjoyed zoo officials are making all special efforts to ensure that the calf survives, unlike in January, when another female giraffe, Shristi, lost her baby within 36 hours of its birth.

The reason behind the calf’s death was injury caused to it by the male giraffe, which not only behaved aggressively after its delivery, but also attacked it several times causing injuries. “The giraffe had probably bit the calf once before being separated from the mother and the new-born,” said zoo director Abhay Kumar.

However, this time the zoo officials were not prepared to take any risk. As soon as they learnt about the pregnancy of giraffe, its keeper was specially sent to the Kolkata zoo to take lessons on how to take care of a new-born giraffe. His interaction with those managing the giraffe enclosure in the Kolkata zoo helped Patna zoo officials to gain knowledge about other aspects related to the birth of a giraffe calf.

“We came to know about the pregnancy from the behaviour of the female giraffe. Normally, the gestation period of a giraffe lasts for 400 to 460 days,” said  zoo  doctor Ajit Kumar. After Shanti delivered the calf on May 21, a nursery within the existing enclosure of giraffe was made to keep the mother and the new-born separated from the other two giraffes. “This is being done as a precautionary measure, as we did not want to take any chance with the calf’s life,” said the zoo director.

His concern is obvious as the zoo not only lost a baby calf in January this year, but also lost the only male tiger - Ram – too at the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park here last week. The zoo authorities have now asked the Junagadh zoo in Gujarat to send a pair of Asiatic lions, a pair of tigers and tigress. Under the mutual exchange programme, the Junagadh zoo will get a pair of one-horn rhino, a pair of ducks and a pair of geese.

The 17-year-old tiger Ram died in Patna after a prolonged illness. The big cat was suffering from posterior cirrhosis for the last four years.  Following the death of the tiger, the zoo is now left with two female tigers – Sita and Tejaswani. “Efforts are on to finalise a deal with the Junagadh zoo to fill the void,” said a senior official of the zoo.

Earlier, negotiations were going on to get a tiger for breeding from Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad. The Hyderabad zoo, too, had agreed to send a pair of Asiatic lions, a pair of white tigers and one Royal Bengal Tiger. And, in return, they wanted only a pair of one-horned rhino.

The Central Zoo Authority , the national-level governing body, which monitors all zoos across the country, too, had approved the exchange plan. But due to some technical hitch, the animal exchange programme could not fructify. The tiger which was supposed to be handed over by the Hyderabad zoo was found not of pure origin by a team of Patna officials. “The hybrid variety may not have been helpful in breeding the tigers at the zoo,” the official said.

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