Pair of leopards, sloth bear are the latest to join Mumbai’s Byculla Zoo

Shivani, the lone female sloth bear at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo in Mumbai’s Byculla, has found her match in Shiva, a male sloth bear who recently arrived at the zoo after travelling 832 km over two nights.

The zoo has also received a pair of leopards from Nagpur. All three animals reached Mumbai a month ago and have finished their quarantine. “All three animals are aged around two and arrived from Gorewada Zoo. We have shifted them from their transportation unit and the acclimatisation process has started. The citizens can soon see them in their enclosures most likely by Wednesday,” said zoo director Sanjay Tripathi.

The animals were transported by road at night to avoid the blistering heat and traffic noise during the day, Tripathi said, adding that they travelled for 6-7 hours at a stretch. They were accompanied by a veterinarian and two zookeepers who monitored their health throughout the journey.

The zoo now houses two pairs of leopards. Earlier in 2019, a leopard pair named Drogone and Pinto were brought in from Mangalore’s Pilikula zoo. The leopard viewing facility has a feeding area, perching spot, wooden loft and is based on a forest theme. All the enclosures are fenced and have a glass façade for better viewing.

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The one-year-old female sloth bear – the zoo’s first – was brought in from Surat in 2019. It lives in an enclosure spread across 1,200 sq m, which was constructed recently.

Earlier, the zoo had a pair of Himalayan black bears, Ganga and Jamuna. Sloth bears are found in scrub grasslands and dense forests and are distributed across the Indian subcontinent. They feed primarily on ants and termites and have thick muzzles, large paws, and long claws, and carry their babies on their back. They are also known to challenge and fight off tigers.

Several animal exchange programmes were recently approved by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) in a bid to free up the crammed Gorewada rescue centre in Nashik. Last year, the rescue centre sent a pair of sloth bears to the Delhi Zoo. It also sent a pair of tigers to Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park.