SURAT: ‘Kya Chhe Gir No Sinh’ (Where is the lion of Gir), ask visitors at the Sarthana zoo, run by the Surat Municipal Corporation ( SMC). Despite their arrival at the zoo two-and-a-half-months ago, the lions have not been put on display. Now, it seems the wild life lovers will have to wait till next year for a glimpse of the Asiatic lion brought under the animal exchange programme from Rajkot’s Sakkarbaug zoo.

The zoo authorities are delaying the display of Asiatic lion as they are still awaiting certain other species, such as the Manipur deer, from the Sakkarbaug zoo, so that they can organize an official function by inviting the city mayor and other dignitaries. For the first time, the Sarthana zoo has got a pair of Asiatic lions. Until now, the zoo had a single 25-year-old hybrid lion and that too was not keeping well as he is ageing. Last year, the only lioness at the zoo died at the age of 21.

A pair of Asiatic lion was brought to the Sarthana zoo from the Sakkarbaug zoo in the third week of October 2011. Since then the big cats have been kept in captivity, away from the eyes of the visitors who are eagerly waiting to see the king of the jungle.

“After newspapers reported the arrival of the Asiatic lion, I visited the zoo with my kids, only to return disappointed. In the last one month, I have been there for over half a dozen time inquiring about the Asiatic lion, but I am not getting proper reply,” said Siddharth Rana, a jari manufacturer from Chowk Bazaar.

Zoo authorities said the pair of Asiatic lions have undergone successful quarantine for over one-and-a-half-month and now they are ready to be introduced to visitors in the Sarthana zoo. Every day before the visiting hour starts, the Asiatic lions are taken out of the cages to be in the open display area.

“Since the quarantine period for the Asiatic lion is already over, we had planned the official display last week. But, due to the Sadbhavana fast in the city, we were sure that the Mayor would not have the time to inaugurate the official display. Now, we plan to hold a function in the first week of January after getting other species such as the Manipur deer from the Sakkarbaug zoo by the end of December,” said Praful Mehta, in-charge superintendent of Sarthana zoo.

Asked why can’t the zoo authorities get the official programme done for the public display of the Asiatic lions, Mehta said, “It is not possible to get dignitaries such as the mayor to come and inaugurate the official display of each and every species of animal arriving from Sakkarbaug zoo. We are waiting for all the species under the animal exchange programme to arrive at the zoo, so that we can keep a small function.”