Mumbaikars will have to wait longer to see Asiatic lions back in Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan And Zoo, also known as Byculla zoo. Reason: the approval letter required from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to procure zebras from Israel in exchange for the lions is still pending.
"Two pairs of zebras have to be given to Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden in Junagadh, Gujarat, in exchange for two pairs of Asiatic lions. The exchange cannot take place until the zebras have been procured. The zebras can't be procured until an official approval letter from CZA is received," said a senior Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official.
After two failed attempts and a delay of two years, BMC and Byculla zoo in August 2020 had shortlisted a procurement agency to help import two pairs of zebras to be given to Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden in Junagadh, Gujarat, in exchange for two pairs of lions. The procurement agency, Goa Trade, had also assisted the civic body in transporting the colony of seven Humboldt penguins.
The procurement of the two pairs of Asiatic lions has become a prestigious matter for the BMC and Byculla zoo. In January, 2019, the Maharashtra Chief Minister's Office had sent a formal request to the CM of Gujarat to procure them. In June, 2019, CZA too cleared the proposal. A grand function was organised in Sasan Gir, where Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani symbolically handed over the transfer certificates of the captive lions to a representative of the Maharashtra government.
Director of Byculla Zoo Dr Sanjay Tripathi said, "The proposal has been sanctioned; however, we are yet to receive an official letter from the CZA. Once we receive the letter, the process will begin immediately." The zoo currently houses around 335 animals, birds and reptiles.