BHUBANESWAR: Thirty hours after it got loose, the Nandankanan Zoo lioness’ freedom run was over on Wednesday afternoon. Hungry for two days and constantly being trailed, it was probably the feline’s first taste of the wild which was ended by a dart from the zoo ACF’s gun which hit its target at 2.50 pm.
The sedated feline was captured and shifted to the zoo hospital. It is unlikely to return to its enclosure soon and will remain under watch for the next few days.
Before it could be captured, the feline did make attempts to escape though. Amidst drizzle last night, spotlights and a dozen personnel on watch, the large cat attempted to escape at least twice but the bids were thwarted.
The capture operation began in the morning when visibility was good. The 50-odd staff tried their hands at bursting fire-crackers, drum beats and even used bamboo to move the lioness from its hiding. It was squeezed into a place where there were walls on the three sides and mesh was erected on the fourth side to prevent its escape.
“We tried a hit and trial method initially to disturb the animal so that it could be sighted clearly. Every now and then, it would move behind the bushes,” Deputy Director of the Zoo SN Mohapatra said. The zoo authorities also created a make-shift enclosure and placed that inside the cordoned off zone to attract the lioness but it did not pay off. At about 2.45 pm, it walked out and came very close to the mesh when ACF KL Purohit got a clear shot. It received a second dose from the blowpipe of the zoo vet seconds later.
Mohapatra said, the animal was at a close range, about four to five feet in distance, which facilitated the darting. At least three tranquillisers were positioned at different angles. After it was captured and brought to the hospital, the lioness was kept under observation and by 7 pm, it was up and moving.
The zoo was thrown open the park to visitors after the capture of the cat. For the management, it was relief after 30 hours of a gruelling operation which was one of its kind in Odisha.