CHENNAI: A 12-year-old bison gave birth to a calf at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park
a few days ago. The calf and his mother Geetha are said to be healthy. The incident the first time in the last four years that a bison has given birth here is being seen as a big boost to the captive breeding programme at the zoo in Vandalur, some 31 km south of Chennai.
The calf, weighing about 30 kg, is being given special care with veterinarians making periodic checks at the special enclosure near the main entrance. This is the second time Geetha has given birth after a gestation period of 275 days. "The calf is feeding at his mother and is expected to continue to do this for at least six months before he is able to feed himself with the fodder provided by us. As far as the re-union of newborn and his mother with the other bisons is concerned, it will take at least three months," zoo director and chief conservator of forests KSSVP Reddy told The Times Of India. Of the 10 bisons, including the newborn, at the zoo, six are female.
The Indian bison or gaur (Bos gaurus) is a large bovine native to South and South East Asia. It has been listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1986 as its population is on the decline. Bigger than even the African and wild water buffalo. they are the heaviest and most powerful of all wild cattle. A male weighs between 1,000 and 1,500 kg while a female weighs between 700 and 1,000 kg. The lifespan of a bison in the wild is around 20 years and five years more in captivity. "This is mainly due to the better medical care and availability of regular food," Reddy said.
Bisons, wildlife experts said, are largely confined to evergreen forests, semi-evergreen, and moist deciduous forests but also occur in dry deciduous forest areas at the periphery of their range. Their habitat is characterized by large, relatively undisturbed forest tracts, hilly terrain below an altitude of 5,000-6,000 ft, availability of water and an abundance of foliage.
Gaur have one calf (occasionally two) after a gestation period of about about nine months, a few days less than domestic cattle. Calves are typically weaned after 7-12 months. Sexual maturity occurs in the second or third year. Breeding takes place year-round, but typically peaks between December and June.