Why a Delhi zoo is returning a jaguar from Kerala

Salman, the jaguar was borrowed on a 'breeding loan' from the Thiruvananthapuram Zoological Garden last October

Written by Sweta Dutta | New Delhi | Updated: October 10, 2015 9:47 am
Lazy, obese and now lonely, Salman on Thursday. Amit Mehra Lazy, obese and now lonely, Salman on Thursday. Amit Mehra

Obesity has been identified as a life-threatening condition among human beings. But as officials in the Delhi zoo have realised over the last year, it can stall life in the animal kingdom too. That’s why they are returning Salman, a 12-year-old jaguar, to Kerala with this stinging verdict: “he’s too fat to breed”.

Salman was borrowed on a “breeding loan” from the Thiruvananthapuram Zoological Garden last October, but has since shown “complete disinterest” in pairing up with the lone female jaguar in the National Zoological Park here, say Delhi zoo officials. They say Salman has “reached out for its meals more keenly than for Kalpana”, the female jaguar.

“He was brought on a breeding loan but it has been over a year and Salman has shown no interest in mating. In fact, the female is seen trying to entice him but he lies in a corner and refuses to respond. He is too fat to breed,” Delhi zoo curator Riaz Khan told The Indian Express.

“Now we know for sure nothing is going to happen. So it is best that we send him back home. He was brought for a purpose and if he is not fulfilling that purpose then what is the point in keeping him here?” Khan said.

Although no scientific tests have been done to establish the case against Salman, some zoo officials are inclined to take his side, arguing that the two other male jaguars, Mohan and Shankar, have also failed to give Kalpana a cub.

“It’s not necessarily about obesity. In some cases, animals that are proven breeders stop after relocation,” said a wildlife expert at the Delhi zoo, who did not wish to be named.

But the counter-argument from Khan and the others is that unlike the other two, Salman has not even shown any interest in mating after reaching Delhi on October 20, 2014. “He is lazy, a glutton, just loves to eat and relax,” said one of Salman’s caretakers.

“Every morning, we find leftovers in the cages of the other jaguars but this one polishes off his entire food. I am sure if we gave him more food, he would finish off that too. He has a bigger appetite than the tigers here,” he said.

All the four jaguars in Delhi’s zoo are given approximately 6 kg of buffalo meat daily, and for a while zoo staff tried their best to win this battle of the bulge.

“Salman was put on a strict diet but showed no signs of losing weight and had to be brought back to the usual ration,” said the caretaker. They also tried releasing him into the larger enclosure more often, hoping he would play around and get some exercise. “But he would stroll for a bit, then lie in a corner,” the caretaker said.

Salman’s weight has not been officially measured yet, but at the time of relocation, the Thiruvananthapuram zoo had certified that he was “fit”.

Last month, officials from the Thiruvananthapuram zoo offered to take Salman back with them when they were in Delhi to accept a white tiger as part of another programme. But the Delhi zoo decided to hold him back till the one-year loan period ends — “hoping against hope”.