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  • Kushagra Sinha

"Is the Presence of 'Sita' and 'Akbar' at Siliguri Safari Park a Threat to Wildlife Conservation?"

Kushagra Sinha,

Lloyd Law College


The writ petition, filed in the court of Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya, also pointed out that while the lioness was named Sita, a lion brought along with her was named Akbar. The Calcutta High Court's Circuit Bench in Jalpaiguri has been contacted by the Bengal wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to contest the forest department's decision to christen a lioness 'Sita' and house her in the same enclosure as a lion named 'Akbar' at the Siliguri Safari Park.

As part of an animal exchange program, the two large cats and eight other animals were reportedly transferred from Tripura's Sepahijala Zoo to the Siliguri Zoo on February 12. The VHP argued that names for the cat family were "irrational," "illogical," and "tantamount to blasphemy" in their writ petition, which was filed on Friday.

The case came up for hearing in Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya's court on February 20. In their petition, the VHP claimed that on February 8, 2024, Sepahijala Zoological Park gave eight other animals and a male and female lion to North Bengal Wildlife Animals Park in Siliguri for the aforementioned animal exchange program. The female lion has been given the name "Sita" by the Bengal Safari Park. The respondent authority is harming Sanatan Dharma's religious sentiments by referring to a lioness as "Sita." “Such naming of a cat family after a religious deity, namely Sita, is irrational, illogical…The outrageous nomenclature has angered petitioners’ religious sentiments. That it is stated by the petitioner that such naming of animals after the name of religious deities is very much sacrilegious and tantamount to blasphemy…” the petition further stated.

"The VHP has asked the court to act immediately in light of the urgency of the situation by filing a writ petition, which includes renaming the lioness to a non-religious name and instructing authorities to desist from giving animals in zoological parks religious names. Vinod Bansal, the national spokesperson for the VHP, said in a press release, "We seek justice, respect for religious sentiments, and stern action against all those involved in such naming of the species."

"The VHP first brought up the matter in a letter to state authorities. The petition was then submitted to the Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench of the Calcutta High Court. We believe that naming animals after Hindu gods and goddesses has offended religious sentiments and feelings. Advocate Subhankar Dutta, who is representing the VHP, told the newspaper over the phone from Siliguri that the matter was mentioned on February 16 and will be heard on February 20.

Tripura Zoo gave the animals their names, according to Birbaha Hansda, a TMC MLA and West Bengal Forest minister. She also called out the VHP, accusing them of engaging in "dirty politics." “What they are doing is dirty politics. We didn’t name the animals which came to us from Tripura Zoo. It is wrong to say that we have given the names. It is our Chief minister who will formally give names to the animals. The animals came from a zoo in Tripura and maybe they have given some names there.”

According to officials, Akbar is seven years and eight months old, and Sita is five years and six months old. The two animals are presently housed in different enclosures. The two will not be placed in a safari display area together for at least two months. Within the 297-hectare park, an area of 20 hectares has been set aside for the big cats, according to sources.An official from Sepahijala Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary in Tripura said, “A pair of lions was sent to the North Bengal Wildlife Park as part of an animal exchange programme. We had sent four black bucks, two lions, two spectacled monkeys and two leopard cats in exchange for two tigers, golden pheasants, silver pheasants and Hill Maynas. We had sent a lion and a lioness named Ram and Sita respectively from Sepahijala. We are not aware of what happened at the destination.”

The official went on to say that every animal in the nation's zoos and sanctuaries is assigned a unique identification code. The official records of the lions sent from Tripura were named Ram and Sita along with their identification codes. The codes are the only reliable means of identifying the animals.



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