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Mumbai sanctuary gets lazy leopards to exercise

nation Updated: May 31, 2016 07:53 IST

MUMBAI: In an age where humans are fast turning couch potatoes, can leopards in captivity be far behind?

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai charted out a fitness regimen for its resident big cats after many among them were found to be falling prey to lifestyle illnesses — just like their human counterparts in urban areas. What’s more, the leopards have also been put on a green diet of leafy vegetables, and given medicine balls to play with.

The result: The animals haven’t been falling sick, and even their weight has remained in check.

Officials at the park say they have ensured the feline predators follow the diet and exercise mantra. Accompanying beef on their new menu is an assortment of plants – including shrubs, palatable grass and medicinal plants such as lemongrass, spear grass, basil, dhub, bhama and durva — that help with digestion.

“Just consuming beef can lead to high acidity. To control that, we are feeding them plants to aid digestion,” said Shailesh Deore, range forest officer at the national park. “Initially, they seemed to resent the change in taste, but got accustomed to it over time. None of the leopards have suffered from digestion-related ailments in a year.”

Leopards in captivity often fall prey to stress due to the unavailability of their natural environment, forest department officials said. To create a better environment for the animals, they have been provided with wooden medicine balls and artificial waterholes.

“While the artificial waterholes are made with stones from river beds to bring about a natural feel, the balls help the leopards exercise and unwind,” said Vikas Gupta, chief conservator of forests at the park.

“Leopards in the wild are used to climbing trees and sitting atop high branches. We tried to replicate this by putting together worn-out branches,” said Shailesh Pethe, a veterinarian. The initiative is showing results, Pethe said, adding that the leopards’ weight is now within prescribed limits.

First Published: May 31, 2016 07:53 IST