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Sayli Udas Mankikar , Hindustan Times
Mumbai, April 30, 2008
Single for over two decades, the sole rhinoceros at Byculla’s Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan may finally get a mate from West Bengal. On Tuesday, Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak dashed off an urgent letter to the chief wildlife warden of West Bengal requesting him to look for a perfect mate for 28-year-old rhino, Shiva.

As per the Central Zoo Authority guidelines, it is mandatory for all animals in a zoo to have a partner. The 28-year-old rhino, Shiva, has been single since he was brought from Assam about 20 years ago.

Last August, when the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) tried to shift Shiva to Jharkhand, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena protested, as they wanted the rhino to stay in the city.

Now, with the zoo development plans taking off last week, the BMC has again woken up to the rhino’s needs. “We are hoping it works out this time,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner R.A. Rajeev, who is in charge of the zoo. The request was made to West Bengal, he added, because of the huge rhino population in the wildlife sanctuaries there, thus, increasing the chances of finding a mate for Shiva.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests report on rhino protected areas released on Monday, West Bengal has 135 rhinos — 108 in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and 27 in Gorumara National Park. Phatak’s letter indicates that the BMC is keen on keeping Shiva in Mumbai and would rather prefer getting him a mate than sending him away. The civic body has also asked the West Bengal warden to work out the modalities and arrange for the transportation of a suitable mate to Mumbai.