Carnivorous animals at the animal rescue centre at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park have seen a change in their diet because of the ban on bullock meat and the strike at the Deonar abattoir, which has stopped buffalo meat supply.
The 14 leopards, nine tigers, three lions and three vultures, who had a daily diet of beef, are now being served chicken for the past two weeks.
“There is shortage of beef because of which we are using larger quantities of chicken as a short-term arrangement. As soon as the abattoir starts functioning, we will be getting buffalo meat regularly,” said Vikas Gupta, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP.
The rescue centre requires a daily supply of 150kg of beef, which means nearly 4,500kg in a month. “Beef is the diet that these animals are used to, but now they are on a lean diet of chicken. We are getting 180kg of chicken daily for the animals,” said Sanjiv Pinjarkar, SGNP veterinarian.
Experts believe that since these animals are not in the wild, they do not get enough exercise and taking away the natural diet of carnivores may lead to health issues.
“If the diet for a carnivore is changed suddenly, it might lead to indigestion or a heightened level of lethargy as the body takes time to get used to the new food,” said Dr Rajeev Gaikwad, professor medical department, Bombay Veterinary College.
He said the percentage of fat content found in a buffalo or bull’s meat comes nowhere close to that of a chicken. “It will take time for them, but since they are creatures of the wild, they will adjust,” he said.
“Every species has its own limitation with regard to what food it has evolved with. Leopards can still survive on a lean diet, however, tigers and lions may have issues with their health if they don’t get specific nutrition from bones of large animals,” said Anand Pendharkar, an environmentalist.
Pinjarkar said they sometimes get export quality frozen beef from a government laboratory in Goregaon.
Mohammad Qureshi, president, Beef Dealers Association, Mumbai, however, said there was no clarity on how they would provide the extra buffalo meat needed to replace bull and oxen meat.