It's a lonely life for Polo in Mysore zoo

CAPTIVE BREEDING

LONESOME Polo, who was gifted to the Mysore zoo in 2001. Photo: Vishwanath SuvaranaT

he century-old Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens of Mysore holds a rare record, that of being the only zoo in the whole country to host a gorilla. But, lady luck has eluded zoo authorities when it comes to breeding gorillas in captivity. The whole country raised its eyebrows when the then director of the zoo, C Krishne Gowda transported a pair of gorillas to the zoo, way back in 1976.

The pair of gorillas named, Sugreeva and Sumathi were at one point, the star attractions of the Mysore zoo. People enjoyed the pranks of the gorillas for hours on end. The zoo authorities built a special enclosure for the pair with the fond hope of their breeding.
Unfortunately, Sugreeva, the male gorilla died within one year. Since then, Sumathi lived solitarily for more than 16 years. The zoo authorities corresponded with the authorities of the world’s leading zoos, seeking a male gorilla. In 1992, Bobo, a male gorilla, was brought to the zoo from Tel Aviv in Israel. However, Bobo became diabetic and its forehand was amputed because of gangrene. Subsequently, it died. After four years of correspondence, the zoo received Polo, a 1972-born male gorilla as a gift from the Dublin zoo. Breeding was not meant to be and Sumathi who had aged considerably died in October 2001 following a cardiac arrest.

Solitary life for Polo

Now, Polo has been living a solitary life for over seven years. Meanwhile, a female gorilla was caught in the wild by Kolmardan Zoo but it died before it could be transhipped to Mysore.

The zoo’s executive director Vijayranjan Singh has mailed to all leading zoos of the world seeking to spare a female gorilla or a pair of gorilla. But, unfortunately, so far, there has been no positive response from any zoo, barring an acknowledgement. Even the coordinator of the European Exchange Programme specifically for gorillas, has replied that the request will be considered only after a suitable female gorilla is found. Meanwhile, Polo lives a life of solitary confinement in the zoo.

Year of the gorilla

The UNEP convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) have joined forces to declare the year 2009 as the year of gorilla. The CMS works for the conservation of a wide array of endangered migratory animals worldwide through the negotiation and implementation of agreements and species action plan.

With more than 110 parties, many of them in Africa, CMS is fast growing in importance, thanks to its expertise in the field of migratory species. GASP is a strategic alliance of UN agencies, governments, NGOs, foundations and corporate sponsors. The best available estimates indicate that the world gorilla population is around two lakh.

A report published in August 2008 indicates that 1.25 lakh previously uncounted gorillas live in the remote areas of northern Congo. With the exception of the mountain gorilla however, accurate population estimates for gorillas are hard to establish, because it is difficult to conduct a precise survey of them in their wide range. Population counts and estimates of gorillas are commonly carried out on the basis of nests or sleeping sites counts. According to IUCN Red List (2008), all taxa are considered “endangered” or “critically endangered.”

With around two lakh gorillas available in the world is it difficult to spare a pair of gorillas for the Mysore zoo, a staff member asks.

And so, a big question mark continues to hang over the zoo’s captive breeding programme.

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