The national lockdown due to COVID-19 has led to a change in the dietary plans of animals in the Mumbai Zoo, officials said. Most carnivores who were fed a staple diet of red meat have now been forced to make do with chicken due to the shortage of buffalo meat in the city.
Varun and Soumya (a pair of striped Hyenas), Drogone and Pinto (a pair of leopards) and Shakti and Karishma (a pair of tigers) have been forced to alter their food choices owing to the 21-day lockdown. All 6, along with four jackals in the civic-run Byculla zoo are being fed chicken meat as opposed to buffalo meat since March 25.
The ten carnivores presently housed in the Zoo would consume around 50 kg of chicken and buffalo meat every day. However, after the lockdown, transportation of livestock from across the country, especially Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh stopped, resulting in the shutting of Deonar abattoir as well as the supply of buffalo meat.
“Buffalo meat is not available since the slaughter house is closed and we are giving these animals chicken meat. In between when the slaughter house was open, we managed to get three to four days’ supply of buffalo meat. If this continues for too long, it might have an impact on their food habit as protein levels vary in different meats,” said Dr Komal Raul, veterinary, Byculla zoo. Since the lockdown, the zoo has been trying to get export quality buffalo meat for the animals. On Friday, authorities managed to procure meat for its ten carnivores.
Star attractions- seven penguins (Olive, Molt, Bubble, Donald, Daisy, Popeye and Flipper) at the zoo have continued with their favourite food, sharp-smelling fish. Penguins eat five to six kg of fish daily and the supply is stored in a blast freezer, which was especially procured for the penguins.
To ensure seamless food supply, the zoo authorities bought two additional deep freezers each with a capacity of 500 litres to store meat and vegetables for the animals. The zoo is also in talks with a contractor who has frozen buffalo meat stock in cold storage to be provided to the zoo. Tigers are fed at least eight to ten kg of meat daily, while leopards consume three to four kg of meat every day.
Zoo director Sanjay Tripathi said, “We have enough meat supply for the next ten days at least, and we won’t run out of food. On March 25, we had our first meat supply. We are not procuring chicken meat daily to minimise contact and procure in bulk.”
After intervention by the Central Zoo Authority, zoos were included under essential services. Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which has 20 animals, including two new leopard cubs in captivity, is procuring 120 kg of frozen buffalo meat daily. Soon after the lockdown, animals in the national park were also dependent on chicken meat.
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