A seven-year-old male leopard at Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s (SGNP) leopard rescue centre was adopted by Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Monday, SGNP officials said.
This is the second time that political leaders in the state have adopted an animal from the national park. Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray and his younger brother Tejas adopted a five-year-old tiger and two rusty spotted cats in May 2014.
SGNP officials said the 57-year-old MP deposited Rs 1,20,000 for Bhima’s (the leopard) upkeep and maintenance of his cage. “The minister had to choose between Arjun, another male leopard at the rescue centre, and Bhima. Bhima is one of our strongest leopards,” said Anwar Ahmed, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP.
He added that the minister’s name will be displayed on Bhima’s cage and he could visit the animal every week without a ticket.
Because of the rising maintenance costs of animals at the 103 sq km park, the state forest department had issued a resolution approving the adoption scheme at SGNP in 2014, making it possible for Mumbaiites and companies in the city to adopt lions, tigers, white tigers, leopards, spotted deer and others for a year after paying a fee .
According to SGNP officials, nine animals were adopted in 2014. However, because of deaths at the national park, not a single animal was adopted in 2015 or 2016.
The office of the Republican Party of India (A) chief issued a statement confirming the adoption.