WHEN MULAYAM Singh Yadav’s “dream project” was envisioned in 2005, Etawah Lion Safari was estimated to cost the Uttar Pradesh government Rs 5 crore. By the end of September 2015 — only two years after work on the project eventually started with the Samajwadi Party supremo’s son at the helm of affairs, the government has, as per its own records, spent Rs 53 crore so far.
Close to Rs 1 lakh is spent every month on food and the upkeep of each pair of the animal. The safari’s breeding center, at present, houses four such pairs — four lions and as many lionesses. The government has also created a corpus fund of Rs 100 crore for the safari’s maintenance.
The figures were released in response to an application filed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information Act.
The data shows that the government, each month, spends lakhs in arranging the facilities not just for the creatures but in the several works it keeps undertaking to make the project a success.
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Among the works undertaken by the government include veterinary hospital, breeding centre, houses for animals, quarantine, post-mortem, overhead tank, substation, pump house, deep tube-well pump, and facilities for visitors and staff.
Besides regulation of temperature with the help of heaters during winters and coolers in summers, RO-purified water and disinfected meat for the animals have become permanent arrangements.
All efforts, however, have fallen short because ever since the spate of deaths began in October 2014, two lionesses, one lion and two cubs have died. Three more cubs were stillborn. Lioness Kunwari is reportedly ill for the past few weeks.
The deaths have left the experts flummoxed and the officials with nothing but the illnesses to talk about.
“We called the best vets the state had… the survival of lion cubs is incomparable with other animals as has been evident from the slow growth of their population in Gujarat,” said K K Singh, former director of the safari. Singh was transferred after one of the guards levelled accusations of “assault” on him. The guard had lodged an FIR alleging that Singh had assaulted him for “leaking information” about the two cubs that died in August last year shortly after their birth. In the past six months, the government has removed at least three key persons attached with the project.