Tigers will soon be introduced at the zoo in Renuka wildlife sanctuary, which once had a lion safari. The Himachal forest department's wildlife wing has contacted at least three zooological and biological parks in the country to get a pair of tigers. A fortnight after the last Asiatic lion in the sanctuary died the wild wing launched an animal exchange programme seeking a pair of lions as well as tigers for the zoo.
The wildlife department proposes to get two lions from the zoological park in Gandhinagar while the pair of tigers is proposed to be brought from the Bannerghatta National Park in Karnataka. The population of Asiatic lions in the erstwhile Renuka safari grew rapidly. However, in the later years their population gradually declined because of the inbreeding problem.
The Renuka zoo, the first in Himachal Pradesh, was set up in 1957 with caging animals that strayed into human habitations. Initially the sanctuary came up a mini zoo and later on many endangered species were introduced there. Many species like hog and barking deer, 'chinkaras' and blackbucks were added gradually and all these animals started multiplying. To accommodate the increasing number of animals an open park was set up in 1983.
Animals like blackbucks and 'neelgais' (blue bulls) were exchanged with Piplee zoo in Utter Pradesh. A pair of Asiatic lion was brought to Renuka zoo from Junagarh in Uttar Pradesh in 1975. The first lion was nicknamed as Raja while the lioness was known as Rani.
Over the years the population of lions grew but with the passage of time the lions faced with inbreeding problems. Consequently genetically the new born had a high mortality rate. The lions that were first introduced from the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat, known for Asiatic lions, diminished. There was time when the population rose enormously to more than 40.
Under the animal exchange programme, the Himachal Pradesh government will provide pair of black and barking deer and the Sambhars that are multiplying rapid and fast in the captive area in different zoos run by the government. The government has sent a proposal to the Central Zoo Authority of India to rehabilitate pair of tiger from Bennarghatta National Park, located 26 kilometers away from Bangalore. The park houses animals like jaguars, leopards, lions, tigers and Asiatic elephants.