Get ready for a drive amidst lions in Vandalur zoo in Chennai this summer vacation
According to sources, the zoo has taken measures under the current leadership to improve animal screening protocols, veterinary care and facilities.
CHENNAI: The Arignar Anna Zoological Park, popularly known as Vandalur Zoo, is planning to add more lions and restart the lion safari this summer itself. Lion safari was one of the major attractions at the zoo. The zoological park suspended the safari in 2021 after Covid-19 infected most of the resident lions and two succumbed to the infection. The same year, two more healthy lions died of different ailments bringing down the total count to nine.
“Lion safari is one of most sought after experiences visitors look forward to. Plans are afloat to reopen it possibly by this summer itself, which is the peak tourist season. For this reason, we are adding a few more lions to the current stock through an exchange programme,” zoo director Srinivas R Reddy told TNIE.
Central Zoo Authority has given approval for bringing two lions from Lucknow and Karnataka. “We have already received one lioness from Lucknow zoo and a male lion will be transported from Bengaluru Bannerghatta Biological Park in Karnataka in another 10 days. In exchange, we have given two tigers,” he added
Another important aspect of the exchange programme is to improve the genetic variation in the gene pool of the lions. “The idea is to introduce different bloodlines in the lion population. The current stock of lions are related to each other as excessive inbreeding is not ideal. There has to be genetic diversity to get healthy offspring,” zoo deputy director R Kanchana told TNIE.
Experts had earlier cited lack of genetic diversity among the big cats at the Vandalur Zoo as the reason behind losing so many animals between 2021-22. In 2021, the zoo lost eight big cats, which include four lions, three tigers and a leopard due to various reasons. In 2022, four big cats - a lion, tigress, jaguar and leopard - died. The park has lost 12 big cats in a span of just 15 months, probably the worst period since its inception.
According to sources, the zoo has taken measures under the current leadership to improve animal screening protocols, veterinary care and facilities. Also, several enrichment projects are ongoing to comfort the animals. The zoo hospital has been upgraded with new state-of-art equipment and an additional operation theatre.