An incident that had occurred for the first time in Sri Lanka in 2014 was revealed today, where a Lion cub from the Dehiwela Zoological Gardens was taken care of at a private home in Moratuwa and fed by the owner's female Labrador after the lioness had disowned this cub.
The lioness had given birth to four cubs, but three of them had died after their mother rejected them.
The Zoo authorities who were committed to save the surviving lion cub and had searched for a 'foster mother' and found ‘Shelly’, a Labrador which had just given birth to some puppies at the time. The cub was placed in her care.
National Zoological Gardens, Director General Dammika Malsingha said the owner did us a big favour when the Zoo authorities were wondering how to save the surviving cub.
At first the owner Heshan Mendis had refused saying it was illegal to raise a lion cub in a private house but had later agreed after Zoo authorities assured him that there would be no issue.
“The lion cub was in a critical condition. It looked like a cat and I feared that ‘Shelly’ would hurt him. As the little cub was so weak we tried to feed him soon. We made several attempts and by the following morning, Shelly began to cuddling and nursing it,” Mr. Mendis said. “There was no difference, though it was a lion cub. It played with the puppies just like one of them."
The cub remained at Mr. Mendis’s residence for three weeks. He was then returned to the Dehiwala Zoo and by then the zoo authorities had imported the necessary milk for the cub.
Mr. Mendis said he was sad to let the cub go.
“Even Shelly had not appetite for two days. We have given her puppies to other people before. But we never saw her as upset as the day on which the cub was taken away. Shelly and the cub were closely bonded by then,” he said.
Mr. Mendis said the Lion was his favourite animal and that he had never thought he would have this one in a million opportunity to adopt one.
“The three weeks with the cub was my most difficult time but also the happiest. I could only sleep for two hours as the cub had to be fed every two hours,” he said.
The cub which was returned to the Dehiwala Zoo was later transferred to Ridiyagama Safari Park. He is now four years old and roaming free unlike the other animals at the Dehiwala zoo.
Mr. Mendis had visited the cub when he turned two years.
“He recognized me when I touched him. He stared at me with love,” he added.
However, Shelly who fed the cub had not received the opportunity to meet the cub due to health and other security issues.
Mr. Mendis had named the cub as ‘Badi’ however the zoo authorities had given it a different name.
However, when contacted Zoological Gardens Director and Veterinary surgeon Dr. Chandana Rajapaksa said in the wake of this incident the Zoo authorities had imported sufficient stocks of milk to avoid such issues. (Thilanka Kanakarathna)