Country's oldest lion may undergo age test

Proof of life
Last Updated 17 February 2016, 19:09 IST

 The age of a feeble lion, believed to be the oldest surviving lion in the country, is kindling curiosity with its caretakers and custodians. 

A zoological park on the outskirts of capital city Chandigarh is nursing the lion which is ‘officially’ said to be the oldest in India. The lion’s age is presumed to be about 23 years, which is more than the maximum natural age of a lion, experts say. 

The age of the carnivorous is turning out to an enigma of sorts, which is why the park authorities now plan to conduct a bone marrow or a blood sample test to ascertain the exact age of the animal.

The lion named Rocky has been with the Chattbir Zoo in Punjab near here since over two decades. Rocky, a cross-breed of the Asiatic and African lion species, was born at the zoo around 1993, even as the zoological park authorities are unsure of the precise date of birth of the lion in the absence of any official record. This would be the first such test in the country to determine the age of a surviving lion, officials claim. 

For now, the authorities are waiting for the end of the winter season, which is when they plan to conduct the tests. Since Rocky is believed to be the oldest surviving lion, health concerns are currently dominating the timing of the decision to conduct the tests. It was in the summer of 2011 that another lion, twenty-year-old Inder, which was then said to be oldest in the country, died at the Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal due to old age. The park authorities had claimed it was the oldest lion in the country and was born on July 12, 1991. The park tended to the lion for over 19 years.  Feeble at this age, Rocky spends most of his time in the lion safari at the zoo. 

Zoo director Manish Kumar said Rocky’s age appears to be more than the maximum age of lions. There is no certain record of his age, which is why, he said, a plan is being worked out to ascertain Rocky’s age through pathological ways of blood or bone marrow samples, only if Rocky’s health permits.

(Published 17 February 2016, 19:09 IST)

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