Shiva, the one-horned Indian rhinoceros, was brought from Byculla Zoo in Mumbai to the National Zoological Park in New Delhi so that he could find a mate. But, four months later, he is still without a mate and battling an old injury on his snout.
Unfortunately, the injury, which Shiva suffered reportedly at the hands of poachers who cut off his horn, has become the reason that Shiva is still without a mate.
The three keepers, Bhai Lal (head keeper), Fateh Singh and Ram (a daily-wage labourer), don’t let him out much for fear of the wound getting infected. As a result, 34-year-old Shiva has not been acquainted with his two prospective mates — Mageshwari (18) and Anjuka (8).
“He was hurt in the wild. It didn’t heal completely in Mumbai. The wound became worse while he was being brought to Delhi,” Singh, the assistant keeper, said.
While his caretakers claimed that Shiva has been let out into the one-acre main rhino enclosure only once, Dr Paneer Selvam, the veterinary officer at the Delhi zoo, said the rhinoceros from Mumbai took a “brisk walk and bath in the mud pool” every Friday when the zoo is closed to visitors.
“Either way, the process to get them to mate may take a long time as there are several factors to be taken into account — from his wound, to getting him acclimatised and waiting for the cows (female rhinoceros) to be in heat,” Selvam said.
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Selvam, who escorted Shiva from Mumbai, said the rhinoceros received medical attention twice a day. “It is a prolonged wound, almost skull deep. We cannot say how long it will take to heal,” Selvam said.
Riaz Khan, the curator of Delhi zoo, said Shiva was only meant to be quarantined for a month to help him adjust to the new environment. Earlier, his cage had been placed next to that of the female rhinos. However, it was found that Shiva’s wound got worse with Mangeshwari trying to lick it constantly.
And this means that Delhi will have to wait longer to see Shiva’s progeny.
For now, Shiva spends much of his time in his cage which is divided into half by a sliding iron gate. One half is where he spends most of the night and day, and the other half is where he is fed and “passes stool”, Singh said.