ISLAMABAD: The administration of the Marghazar Zoo has separated its lions to prevent them from mating.

Officials understand that they cannot handle newborn cubs, as six cubs previously born to the lioness Rani died.

Zoo officials said that Rani had once given birth to two stillborn cubs and in June 2017, gave birth to four cubs that died because she did not feed them.

“The lioness is aggressive and she, after giving birth to cubs, used to not feed them. So on the advice of an expert, we decided to separate the pair,” veterinary officer Dr Bilal Ahmed Khilji, who also looks after the zoo’s administrative affairs, said.

A pair of African lions was brought to the zoo in May 2016 under the Punjab government’s birds and animals exchange programme.

Sources in the zoo and the Capital Development Authority and Metropolitan Corporation’s environment wing have expressed concerns about the separation of the two animals, which they say have been apart for several months.

“First, we do not believe the lioness would not feed her cubs. But even if it is true, there is no justification to keep the animals separate. The zoo officials should medically treat Rani,” a zoo official said.

“We are planning to [bring the couple back together] in the summer, so that we get the next labour in the winter. We are taking steps to avoid the lioness’ aggressiveness,” the veterinarian said.

When contacted, acting Chief Metropolitan Officer Asad Mehboob Kayani said that after holding discussions with the veterinary doctor he agreed that there was no justification for keeping the animals apart.

“I was told the pair was separated because the lioness behaved aggressively,” he said.

He added that if there was any issue regarding the lioness’ aggression, they would “arrange a new couple to have cubs”.

Some zoo officials told Dawn that zoo officials had separated the lions without conducting medical tests to prevent the lions from mating.

“Our bosses were saying to keep the pair separate, otherwise Rani would give birth again and there would be the issue of handling new cubs as this lioness would not feed her cubs,” a zoo attendant quoted senior zoo officials as saying.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2018

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