Celibate snow leopard to get foreign female companion!

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla : Single at six can sure be lonely – at least if you are a male snow leopard! To help one such captive big cat in a Himalayan nature park, the authorities are scouting for a partner from abroad.

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This story revolves around Subhash the snow leopard, whose female companion Sapna died from disease last year. Both were inmates of the nature park in Kufri, 15 km from here.

“We are now planning to get a female snow leopard from outside India. Efforts are on. We are trying to contact zoos in the US and Hungary so that we can get a female snow leopard,” wildlife conservator Lalit Mohan told IANS.

Sapna and Subhash had been brought from the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Zoo, Darjeeling, under an exchange programme in 2004.

The zoo authorities at Darjeeling had told the wildlife wing of Himachal to keep the pair in separate enclosures to prevent further inbreeding as they belonged to the same bloodline. But Sapna died.

Said Mohan: “Since the snow leopard falls under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, it cannot be captured from the wild. Even in captivity, it is not available in surplus. So his companion could not be arranged.”

Besides Kufri, Darjeeling is the only other zoo with a snow leopard population but all these are from the same family.

“The main objective of the Kufri park is to initiate the conservation breeding programme, especially of highly endangered species. Subhash’s forced celibacy is a matter of concern for all of us. But very soon we will be able to find his mate.”

Pin Valley National Park and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary in the cold desert of Spiti in Himachal is the natural habitat of the snow leopard. It is also found in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

R.S. Kishtwaria of the College of Veterinary Sciences in Palampur, 175 km from here, says forced celibacy for a long period is not good for such animals and results in abnormal behaviour.

“It’s cruelty towards caged animals,” he says.

Kishtwaria cites rule 37 of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992, which says: “Every zoo shall keep the animals in viable, social groups.

“No animal will be kept without a mate for a period exceeding one year unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so or if the animal has already passed its prime and is of no use for breeding purposes.”