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57 days on, Heera the lion is still not eating with little hope of recovery

  • Published at 12:11 pm June 25th, 2019
One of the lions in Dhaka Zoo is seen sitting inside her cage. Heera is no longer put on display for the public Syed Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

He is no-longer on display to the public

The cage of Heera—a lion that has been starving for 56 days at the National Zoo—is now covered with jute cloth so that he is hidden from visitors.   

Zookeepers say that four-year-old Heera is starving to death at the Dhaka zoo, and veterinarians hold little hope that he will recover.

His zookepers say that Heera ate for the last time on April 25. Since April 26, he has eaten nothing, not even a bite of food. Veterinarians have never seen this kind of case before, where an animal has not eaten for such a long time.

According to the zoo officials, despite the odds, Heera is capable walking, and drinks some water. However, he has gradually weakened. Veterinarians have given him saline, glucose, and medicine to make his body active; and water to increase his appetite. For this reason, he is still alive. Now his cage is covered with jute cloth, and he is no-longer on display to visitors.

A medical board formed over the matter and is headed by Dr Md Ainul Haque, director (research, training and evolution) of the Department of Livestock. However, still now, they have not met; instead, a medical board meeting is scheduled for June 26. In the meantime, the zoo's veterinarians are taking care of Heera.  

Nazmul Huda, veterinarian at the National Zoo said: “Despite not eating, Heera has been vomiting. That is why we concluded that he is suffering from acid reflux.   

“Famous veterinarians, at home and abroad, have been consulted. Heera's physical situation is not suitable for anesthesia. That is why it is not possible to diagnose him by doing an X-ray or ultrasound.”

“In my entire life, I have never seen any animal refrain from eating for such a long time. I have seen an animal go a maximum 14 days without eating. However, I am hopeful for its recovery because yesterday, it bit a hen, despite not eating it,” he added.

Ainul Haque, Head of the medical board said: “We will meet June 26. After seeing all documents and its medical history, we will be able to say something.” 

Curator of the National Zoo, Dr SM Nazrul Islam, is hopeful of Heera’s recovery. He said: “Since yesterday, Heera’s physical condition is a little bit better. We are hopeful, we will make history by healing Heera.”

Rakibul Haq Emil, Founder chairman People for Animal Welfare (Paw) said: “A lack of skill and care causes this situation. The zoo must be restructured in every sector. It needs advanced diagnosis instruments, staff training, and skilled veterinary doctors; as well as enough space for animals to hide inside their cages.”

“[Animals'] mental health is important, along with physical health. Some animals stop eating when under mental strain,” he said.

According to Zoo officials, currently there are six lions at the Zoo, including Heera. Among the other five, two are Indian lions—both female—and the other three are African lions –one male and two female. Among the lions, there is only one pair. The rest do not have a male partner. 

In August 2015, Heera was born at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park in Gazipur. In May last year, the park authority transferred Heera—along with the other three lions—to the zoo. 

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