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New life in green zoo

Sunday, 11 November 2012 - 8:13am IST | Place: Moodabidri | Agency: dna

In last eight years, the number of tigers at Pilikula zoo near Mangalore has gone up by eight.

At a time when we have got used to reports of animals suffering and dying in zoos, a wildlife enclosure in a sleepy village of Dakshina Kannada saw the birth of two tiger cubs and four leopard cubs this week.

With this, the number of tigers at the zoo in the coastal town of Moodushedde in Mangalore taluka has gone up to 10, starting with just two in 2004. What’s more, the zoo has taken care to avoid inbreeding to ensure the offspring are genetically fit.

“It is good to see the zoo could achieve so many tiger births in eight years. We have also achieved a high rate of breeding among leopards, black bucks, reptiles, including rare sand boas, the Indian cobra, vipers and kraits, prompting the Central Zoo Authority to recognise Pilikula as the conservation and breeding centre for King Cobras,” the director of the centre, Jayaprakash Bhandary, told DNA.

When the former deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada district, Bharatlal Meena, first floated the idea of having a wildlife enclosure on the coast in a small  village, politicians made fun of him and some skeptics even chided him for suggesting such a ‘foolhardy’ idea.

But Meena carried on with his plan and today his brainchild, the Pilikula Nisarga Dhama and Dr Shivarama Karanth biological park have turned into fine centres for wildlife conservation and one of the main centres in South India to breed all sorts of animals in captivity.
Old tiger pond

One of the reasons for the success of tiger breeding at the Pilikula zoo in Moodushedde is its closeness to a natural tiger habitat in the Western Ghats. The word Pilikula is derived from pili, which means tiger, and kula, which is a pond. The Pilikula was built in the same place where tigers used to quench their thirst in the past. There was a natural forest already existing when the facility was built in 2001, but the Pilikula Nisarga Dhama Society later made the forest denser and provided a water body, an elevated place and other natural habitat features for the tiger enclosure.
The tiger population of ten in Pilikula is in fact now beyond its ‘manageable’ capacity and so the authorities are launching an adoption drive. Efforts are also on for an exchange with other animals from various zoological parks in the country. The breeding of other animals, especially leopards and snakes, has also had a good success rate at the zoo.

The chairman of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka, M Nanjundaswamy, commended the officials of the Pilikula Nisarga Dhama Society, which is out of the  purview of the zoo authority and therefore has to generate most of its own funding.

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