He neither looks agitated, nor shows regal indifference to the visitors. Comilla Zoo's lone big cat Juboraj is 18 and lost his mighty roars. He is already past the limit of a lion's average life span.
The jungle king may be the epithet for this African lion, but he is seen in a laying down posture most of the time.
He does not even take much food these days.
Juboraj is almost a living death.
But the zoo's management has kept the lion at its cage for display, offering a rather pitiful and obnoxious sight to the visitors.
The insensitivity of such a display has also irked the netizens. Some photos and a video of the ailing lion have recently gone viral on Facebook and generating harsh criticisms about the role of the authorities.
The zoo along with a botanical garden was established in 1985 on a 10.15 acre land of the district administration in Comilla town. Comilla Zila Parishad is responsible for the management of these two establishments. The zila parishad, however, maintains the zoo and the botanical garden through commercial lease.
Asked about the lion's condition, Sonjoy Kumar Bhowmik, chief executive officer of Comilla Zila Parishad, said: “Juboraj is in critical condition. We have called up veterinarians for his treatment in the near past. The veterinarians informed that a lion has an average life span of 14 years and Juboraj is already 18. We brought him from the Chittagong Zoo eighteen years back.”
Many countries in the world have a policy to euthanise ageing zoo animals to relieve those of the sufferings. But Bangladesh is yet to have a euthansia law.
Contacted, Dhaka Zoo Curator Dr SM Nazrul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “We came to know about the ailing lion quite a few months back. We have no way but to let the lion live, wherever the sufferings might be. Bangladesh doesn't have a euthansia or painless killing act.
“The best we can do for the lion is create a medical board and keep it under special care in the Cntral Veterinary Hospital at Alauddin Road,” added the Dhaka Zoo curator.
Dr Monirul H Khan, associate professor of the Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, suggested that the zoo authority should keep the ailing lion in isolation.
“I have no objection in killing the captive animal in such a condition. But there are people whose sentiment can go against it. So the best way is to isolate it. Moreover, the sick lion may have been suffering from different contagious diseases. The isolation can prevent the spread of those diseases among the other zoo animals,” Monirul said.
Comilla Zoo: A kingdom only resembling its king
The overall condition of Comilla Zoo is no different from that of Juboraj's.
A visit to the zoo gives one an impression of passing through an abandoned establishement as most of the cages remain empty.
Besides the lone lion, the zoo displays a total of eight monkeys, three moor fowls and three deers. Locals complain that the zoo area gets inundated with a moderate rainfall and the visitor turnout has been decreasing year on year.
Ali Akbar Masum, former president of Comilla Sachetan Nagorik Committee, said: “The pity state of the zoo in such a prominent city as Comilla is very unexpected. The zoo must be renovated and more animals and birds should be brought in for display.”
Raihan Hasnat, one of the leasees of the zoo, said: “We have to count a yearly expenditure of Tk19 lakh which include the lease price and the cost of feeds provided to the animals. But the visitor turnout is low as we do not have much animals to display. We are already in loss.”