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Assam zoo cats want chicken, not mutton
Published on 14 Dec. 2008 12:32 AM IST
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For the last two days, Caesar, a leopard at the Assam state zoo here, has not had a morsel of food, and its keepers are at their wits' end. From raw mutton to cooked minced lamb legs, zookeepers tried in vain to make Caesar eat. But they have failed. Ever since a ban on poultry and poultry products was enforced due to an outbreak of bird flu in Assam, authorities were forced to change the menu for the zoo inmates -- from chicken to mutton. "The cats at the zoo were earlier given chicken, but all of a sudden when we started serving them mutton they are refusing to eat," zoo warden Narayan Mahanta told IANS. There are about 30 cats in the zoo, from leopards to clouded leopards and jungle cats. "We even tried serving them boiled minced mutton but still their acceptance level is less than 30 percent. This is a matter of concern for us," the warden said. Most zoo cats are now getting restless. "They are pacing around the cages and most of the time roaring angrily. They are hungry," a keeper said. Even the bears are annoyed. "The bears love to eat eggs, but with the ban on poultry products we are unable to give them eggs. At times the bears are also getting angry," said Mahanta. Zoo officials are now thinking of alternatives. "We are hoping for the best and presume the cats would develop a liking for mutton soon," one official said. Assam is in the grip of a bird flu epidemic with at least eight of the 17 districts hit by the deadly avian influenza. An estimated 300,000 poultry, including chicken and ducks, have been culled since the outbreak two weeks ago. More than 200,000 poultry were ordered to be killed. The Assam government banned the sale and consumption of poultry and poultry products in most parts of the state fearing bird flu might spread to humans. "We are carrying out daily health checks on the animals in view of the bird flu," Mahanta said.

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