Three of the five lion cubs, offsprings of an “unwanted fertilisation” in Nandanvan, the Raipur zoo, died within 24 hours of their birth. While the zoo authorities have denied any negligence in fertilisation or post-birth care, the incident leaves several unanswered questions.
Saraswati, 20, had given birth to five cubs on Wednesday between 3 and 11 pm, but zoo authorities learnt of it only on Thursday morning. Three died on Thursday night, and again the administration came to know about it only on Friday morning.
“Whenever the number of deliveries is more than three, survival rate of cubs goes down. They are unable to get proper nourishment from mother. First milk is very important for developing resistance. But as they were five, they could not get proper amount of milk,” zoo doctor Jaikishor Jadiya told The Indian Express. He cited the post-mortem report that the cub died of “improper nourishment”.
Central Zoo Authority guidelines ask zoos to “limit number of animals of each species by implementing appropriate population control measures like segregation of sexes, vasectomy, tubectomy, etc”. “We take proper measures to segregate lions, males are kept in separate enclosures. This was an accidental breeding,” Jadiya told The Indian Express. Saraswati had given birth to two male and one female cub in January 2010, and according to Jadiya, the two males in her enclosure were still in “sub-adult” stage when they impregnated her.
This was in April this year, but the zoo administration remained unaware of her pregnancy or the delivery date and were caught completely unawares. “It was an exceptional breeding, the male had not reached the adult stage. There is no negligence,” said Chief Conservator of Forests and Wildlife, Anup Srivastava.