BHUBANESWAR:The Nandankanan Zoological Park, known for its stock of tigers, is in a spot of bother as it is being flooded with requests for the large cats in animal exchange programmes. With its tiger population already in a precarious state, the Zoo is pinning hopes on resumption of planned breeding of the carnivores.
With just 24 tigers in its possession, Nandankanan Zoo is currently undecided over an exchange programme with West Bengal which has sought two pairs of the large cats for one giraffe.
The West Bengal Government is setting up a tiger safari in its Siliguri Zoo for which it has asked for two pairs of tigers in exchange for a giraffe. This deal, if it goes ahead, will put pressure on the tiger stock of Nandankanan Zoo.
Currently, the Zoo has 16 normal coloured (Royal Bengal Tigers) and eight white tigers. While it cannot part with the white tigers, the population of RBTs is such that sending out four could affect its own stock. Apart from exhibits, the Zoo has a tiger safari to run.
However, what is significant is the profile of the tiger population of Nandankanan. Of the 24 tigers, three pairs are in the breeding age while five cats are still cubs. Three tigers are already old and taken off exhibits. It is in this context that exchanging two pairs of tigers for the giraffe assumes significance. Siliguri Zoo apart, Patna Zoo too has evinced interest for a tigress.
Since Nandankanan has the highest number of tigers among the zoos in the country, most animal parks have been insisting on one or two during exchange programmes. But the existing profile of tiger population is such that it can ill-afford such deals without augmenting the population through planned breeding.
“We are looking to resume planned breeding after a span of three years. We will look at the right pair of tigers and then go ahead with it so as to minimise inbreeding,” said a senior officer of the Zoo.
Incidentally, the last successful breeding between a pair - Sneha and Manish - had led to five offsprings, three of which were melanistic.
However, the planned breeding could also face some challenge since the zoo authorities are keen to pair Nandan, the wild tiger, with a wild tigress though they are unsure how the male cat may behave. Sara, which had successfully mated with Rishi in the past, is wild caught but it has suffered injuries after being attacked by another tigress Megha. Pairing of Sara and Nanda, both having wild genes, is an idea the zoo authorities are toying with but reluctant to execute.