With the objective of increasing footfall, the popular Arignar Anna Zoological Park, aka Vandalur Zoo in Chennai, is now planning to revive one of its major attractions, the lion safari. The safari is being planned for this summer itself.
It was in 2021 after Covid-19 which had led to death of four lions due to Coronavirus and other ailments in the zoo that this safari had been suspended. The number of lions in the zoo had come down to nine.
Sharing details about this attraction, Srinivas R. Reddy, the Zoo Director told the media that it was one of the most popular ones in the park. “We plan to reopen it possibly by this summer itself, which is the peak tourist season.” Working towards this end, the Zoo has decided to add a few more lions to the current stock through an exchange programme.
To transfer lions from other zoos, the Central Zoo Authority has given its approval for bringing two lions from Lucknow and Karnataka. One lioness has already been received from Lucknow and a male feline is expected from Karnataka’s Bengaluru Bannerghatta Biological Park soon.
The Vandalur Zoo has given two tigers in return for these two lions.
Apart from adding to the numbers for the safari, another important reason for bringing in new lions under the exchange programme is to improve the gene pool of the lions. By introducing different bloodlines in the lion population this becomes possible.
At present the lion population in the Zoo are all related to each other and therefore genetic diversity is required to have healthy offspring.
Lack of genetic diversity was one of the important reasons that was cited for Vandalur Zoo to lose many animals between 2021-22. The Zoo had in 2021 lost eight big cats including four lions, three tigers and a leopard while in 2022, a lion, tigress, jaguar and leopard had died.
To ensure that such incidents don’t occur the authorities have taken steps to improve animal screening protocols, veterinary care and facilities. Also, a new state-of-art equipment and an additional operation theatre.