Lion couple mate,fire up hopes for new cubs

Both were kept in two separate cages till Tuesday for their wounds to heal.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Published: October 16, 2013 12:24 am

Frisky lion cubs may add to the charm of the city’s 104-sq km Sanjay Gandhi National Park if the mating of two adult lions in the last seven days is successful.

“Shobha and Ravindra tried to mate last week,but we cannot be sure if she is pregnant until a month passes by. They have a tendency to get aggressive with each other. This time,too,they attacked each other after mating,” said N V Zirwe,caretaker of the lions at SGNP. Both were kept in two separate cages till Tuesday for their wounds to heal.

Currently,the park has a lion safari,which takes visitors on a tour through a 20-hectare forest area housing four lions. While two are two-year-old cubs,Jespa and Gopa,the other two are adult lions,Ravindra (7) and Shobha (6). “We get 200 visitors daily and the count rises to 450 on weekends. More lions will attract more visitors,” said assistant conservator of forest,S D Saste.

Shobha and Ravindra were brought from Bangalore’s Bannerghatta zoo in June 2009. Initially,the forest officials expected them to mate,but Shobha had other plans. “She mated with the now deceased Badshah,who was rescued from a circus in 2004,and gave birth to three cubs in 2012. One of the cubs died,” said Sunil Limaye,SGNP’s chief conservator of forest. “We cannot force the lions to mate. Shobha veered towards Badshah instinctively. After he died,we thought Ravindra can be a mate. This is their second attempt,but there is always some aggression between them.”

The gestation period of a lioness is 14 weeks. According to Dr Sanjiv Pinjarkar,veterinary officer at SGNP,when a lioness is pregnant,she starts showing signs in a four to six weeks. “Her appetite will increase and she will sit in a corner. With a visible bulge in the belly and behavioural changes,we understand that the lioness is pregnant,” he said. When the lioness is pregnant,the forest officials tranquilise her and perform a sonography test.

According to Pinjarkar,a lion reaches maturity at the age of three. While chances of Shobha conceiving are high,there is another pair in the park waiting to reach maturity. According to forest officials,Gopa made advances on Jespa earlier this week. However,as they are young,Pinjarkar said they cannot mate. “It will take another year for both to reach maturity,” he said.

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