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When Somashekhar saved 'Bhajarangi'

The zoo made a special mention of Somashekhar's dedication in its annual report submitted to the government.
Last Updated : 23 June 2024, 20:52 IST

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Bengaluru: In July 2023, the outlook for 'Bhajarangi' looked bleak. Having just arrived into the world, the infant lion-tailed macaque's (LTM) life was in danger as his mother couldn't nurse him.

Enter: Somashekhar 

An employee at the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens in Mysuru, Somashekhar virtually transformed into the "mother" of the male infant and nurtured it 24x7 for two months. Eventually, the hard work paid off. 'Bhajarangi' came back from the brink.

The zoo made a special mention of Somashekhar's dedication in its annual report submitted to the government.

Lion-tailed macaques are an endangered species endemic to the hill ranges of the Western Ghats. They have a striking mane that surrounds their face and a long tail, with a lion-like tuft at the tip. 

At the zoo in Mysuru, they are one of the top attractions among primates. 

In the beginning of July last year, an LTM named Aishwarya gave birth to a male infant taking the total number of her species in the zoo to five. Officials immediately started monitoring the mother and infant as insufficient lactation had led to the mortality of her previous infants.

Director of the zoo D Mahesh Kumar said colostrum (breast milk) plays a vital role in development of the infant, including boosting its immunity. Authorities left the infant with the mother to allow whatever amount of nursing was possible.

The mother and infant were placed in a holding room for close observation. Despite the apparent activity of the infant in the first two days, signs of exhaustion and reduced suckling were observed. The veterinary team, which looked into the situation, confirmed insufficient mammary gland development and synthesis of milk in the mother.

Kumar was effusive in his praise of Somashekhar, saying his love and compassion towards animals is "inspiring".

"The decision to hand-rear the infant was taken because we had employees like Somashekhar, whose commitment to the work and love for animals has been proven more than once," Kumar told DH. "He worked 24X7 in ensuring that the infant is fed as per the advice and this care was instrumental in saving its life." 

During the first week, the infant was offered with a 'mother milk replacer': eight feedings of 8.9 ml feeding formula each per day had to be fed in right intervals. The frequency of feeding was gradually reduced while the volume of the feeding formula was increased simultaneously.

Somashekhar carried out the work without a hitch and the zoo authorities recognised it.

"It's a work that went on for two months and he virtually became the infant's mother," Kumar said, adding the infant, which has been named 'Bhajarangi', is "doing well".

Besides the overtime payment, we have recognised Somashekhar's central role in animal care and management. "He was felicitated by the chief minister in a recent event," Kumar said.

Quote - The decision to hand-rear the infant was taken because we had employees like Somashekhar whose commitment to the work and love for animals has been proven more than once. He worked 24X7 in ensuring that the infant is fed as per the advice and this care was instrumental in saving its life -  D Mahesh Kumar Director Mysuru zoo

Cut-off box - Bigger enclosures The current enclosures housing some of the animals including rhesus macaque common langur and Nilgiri langur will be replaced soon with open spacious and naturalistic enclosures as per the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority. Director Mahesh Kumar said the designs of the new enclosures will be sent to the CZA and work will be taken up after receiving approval. "It's akin to the open enclosures given to gorillas and chimpanzees" he said.

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Published 23 June 2024, 20:52 IST

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