Poor Ruby is on a forced diet of poultry — kinda chicken feed for a grown-up girl who needs at least 6kg of protein-and fat-rich meat, either buffalo or goat, to keep her fit and agile.
The eight-year-old Ruby and six fellow leopards at Uttarakhand’s Chidiyapur animal rescue centre, on the outskirts of holy town Haridwar, are off their favourite diet after the crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
And, a shoestring budget doesn’t allow the forest department to buy goat meat or mutton — more expensive than buffalo meat and poultry fowls, for the full-grown leopards in an age bracket of seven and nine years.
Even if officials dig deep into their pockets, it’s impossible to buy mutton locally in Haridwar, a strictly vegetarian town bereft of slaughterhouses or butcher shops because of its holy status.
Hence, the less-nutritious alternative for the leopards — some of which were declared man-eaters before they were caught and brought to the rehab.
Poultry is not a wholesome choice, or a solution, as leopards need red meat to survive.
Officials said the forest department had an annual contract with a supplier from neighbouring Bijnor district in UP, hardly 50km from the centre, for a ration of buffalo meat for the wild cats.
But the contractor informed on Saturday about his inability to supply buffalo meat; fallout of the new BJP-led UP government’s drive against unauthorised abattoirs dotting the state.
“We are now feeding chicken to the leopards and trying our best to tide over this emergency. We will float a fresh tender for the supply of goat or sheep meat,” divisional forest officer HK Singh said on Sunday.
Goat meat from UP is available at about ₹400 a kilo — almost double the price of buffalo flesh before the slaughterhouse clampdown. The crisis has hit carnivorous animals in UP’s zoos too, especially the one at Kanpur, where authorities were short of meat supply.
Closure of illegal and mechanised slaughterhouses has been among the pre-poll commitments of the BJP that was voted to power with a massive majority in the February-March assembly elections.
Among the first actions of chief minister Adityanath Yogi is to act on his party’s promise — closing down abattoirs.
Both UP and Uttarakhand have banned the slaughter of cows and its progeny. But the prohibition was enforced slackly in UP until the new government took over.
On Saturday, a leopard which entered a residential colony in Rawali Mahdood village near Haridwar was beaten to death by the locals after it attacked a couple. Both were shifted to the district hospital where their condition is out of danger.
According to the forest department, the leopard was ill and suffering from an old wound.
“The leopard was too weak. We conducted an autopsy and disposed the carcass,” said Haridwar range officer Mahesh Semwal.
The leopard had attacked the dog of 30-year-old Guddi Devi who then came out to save her pet. The leopard then attacked her and her husband. Both of them work as labourers in the industrial area.
“I woke up after hearing Guddi Devi’s scream. I took a wooden stick and attacked the leopard to save them,” said Om Parkash, a villager.