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31 Dec 2016

N Bengal park to welcome tigers from city zoo

HT, 30 December 2016, KOLKATA: For Sheela and Snehasis, the New Year is likely to usher in a new beginning in their lives.
On Thursday, the tiger and tigress left the Alipore Zoo and headed for the North Bengal Wild Animals’ Park, popularly known as the Bengal Safari, near Siliguri. They would be released in the tiger safari sometime in mid-January.
It is the only Safari Park in the state where tourists can see wild animals, including tigers, leopards, bears, rhinos, deer, various birds and crocodiles roaming freely in their natural habitats, while moving around in small buses or gypsies.
“Sheela and Snehasis were brought to the Alipore Zoo from Nandankanan in Odisha almost a year ago along with another tiger and tigress. Since then, they had been living in cages and were released in glass enclosures. But now, they would get a much larger area for themselves, which perfectly resembles their natural habitat,” said VK Yadav, member secretary of the state zoo authority.
CM Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the herbivore safari earlier this year and she is expected to inaugurate the tiger safari in mid-January next year. Sprawled over 20 hectares of land, the safari will have trees, grasslands, caves to provide sheds for the tigers and water bodies so that the animals can feel at home.
The master plan has the provision for keeping at least six tigers – two males and four females – in the tiger safari. Authorities, however, plan to keep only four for the time being.
“We plan to release two more. They could be either tigers from the zoo or wild tigers which are sometimes rescued by forest officials. Nothing has been decided yet,” said a senior official.
Sheela and Snehasis were put in cages and boarded on a truck which left for Siliguri on Thursday evening. Vets accompanied them in cars carrying food, water and medicines. The tiger-tigress couple would be kept in quarantine over the next few days for a thorough health checkup before they are released.
“The bear and leopard enclosures each sprawling over 20 hectares are also being constructed. We hope to throw them open in 2017,” Yadav added.

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