With buffalo meat, their diet of choice, unavailable for two days, the lions of Lucknow were forced to get by on chicken and mutton.
@nytimesworld: “The perfect diet for a carnivore is buffalo meat,” but that could disappear in India
MUMBAI — When the newly elected government of India’s most populous state began shutting down parts of the buffalo meat industry this week, the effects reverberated far and wide, but most immediately in the lions’ area at a city zoo.
In the long run, those likely to be hit the hardest were the predominantly Muslim owners and employees in the slaughterhouse industry in Uttar Pradesh state, which in recent years has made India the world’s largest exporter of meat.
But eight Asiatic lions reigning over the southern corner of the zoo in Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, have felt the effects, too, as the new Hindu-right government has begun closing numerous slaughterhouses that hard-liners have long suspected of concealing the illegal slaughter of cows, which are worshiped by Hindus.
Twice this week, the lions’ daily ration of 22 pounds of water buffalo meat each failed to arrive, forcing them to survive on a leaner fare of chicken and mutton, said the director of the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Zoological Garden, Anupam Gupta.
Besides the lions, 27 other carnivorous animals at the Lucknow zoo, including tigers, leopards, hyenas, jackals and wolves, have also faced a dietary challenge this past week, Mr. Gupta said.
But all of their regular diets of water buffalo were restored by Friday, when zoo officials located a slaughterhouse in the nearby Unnao district that agreed to provide the daily requirement of 485 pounds of buffalo meat, he said.
The same supplier came through for a zoo in the state’s other major city, Kanpur, where 30 carnivores were similarly affected.
“Now water buffalo meat will be a regular feature, and there will be no problem,” said Mr. Gupta, adding that in the wild, animals can go long periods between meals, if prey is scarce.
But any extended shortage of buffalo meat could pose problems, officials said.
“Nutritionally, the perfect diet for a carnivore is buffalo meat,” said Dr. Anil Patel, deputy director of the Etawah Wildlife Safari Park, a government-run facility in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. It is also less expensive than other meats, he said.
For now, though, the lions can sleep easy, which is good, because they typically do it 20 hours a day.