Darjeeling’s Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park is now home to two Siberian tigers that arrived from Cyprus. Lara and Akamas, both one and a half years ago, were flown into Kolkata airport and from thereon to Darjeeling by two special ambulances. The animals have arrived as part of an animal exchange programme with Cyprus. They were in transit from Cyprus for 12 hours. While in transit, they were given just water. The Emirates flight from Dubai landed in Calcutta in the evening on Saturday last with Lara and Akamas whose combined weight is over 500 kg.
From Kolkata, they travelled to Siliguri by road in two special, air-conditioned ambulances. From Siliguri, they travelled up Darjeeling’s higher and colder altitude after their cages were shifted to smaller vehicles to facilitate the journey. The speed of the vehicles was deliberately maintained at a certain mark to avoid any uneasiness for the animals. A team of vets accompanied the animals all through the journey.
Siberian tigers have been kept in quarantine for now
“They are healthy and have been kept in quarantine in separate enclosures and would be shifted to another enclosure for public view after a month,” said Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park director Basavraj Holeyachi. This has been done to ensure the animals are safe from infections in a new environment.
“As a part of the animal exchange programme, a pair of Red Pandas has been sent to Cyprus’s Pafos Zoo. The Darjeeling Zoo is internationally recognized for the conservation and breeding programme of the Red Panda undertaken here. The zoo presently has 25 Red Pandas,” added Holeyachi.
The last Siberian big cat died in India at the Nainital Zoo in November 2011 due to age-related problems.
The first ex-situ snow leopard conservation breeding programme was started at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in 1986. The Red Panda project began four years later in 1990 has been hailed as a success.
Kunal, 18, and another Siberian tiger, Mahesh, were sent to Nainital in March 1997 from the Darjeeling Zoo. Mahesh died in 2001.
SIBERIAN TIGER POPULATION IS LESS THAN 1000 ACROSS THE WORLD
It is estimated that fewer than 600 Siberian tigers are found in the wild with a hundred more in zoological and nature parks. The species distribution is disjointed and is found in China and North Korea possibly in addition to Russia Far East. About 90% of the population live in the Sikhote-Alin mountain complex of Russia.
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