Zoo stuck in gender conundrum

The Nehru Zoological Park has one strange register that lists the gender of more than 550 animals, from among 162 species and over 1,550 specimens, as ‘Unidentified’.

By Author  |  Published: 19th Dec 2016  11:13 pm
species
Deer moving in herds make it difficult for zoo officials to identify the gender. Photo: Surya Sridhar

Hyderabad: You have heard about the tiger and the tigress, the lion and the lioness and the buck and the doe. But have you heard about animals for whom such gender classification is not possible?

The Nehru Zoological Park (NZP) here has one strange register that lists the gender of more than 550 animals, from among 162 species and over 1,550 specimens, as ‘Unidentified’. In other words, the zoo does not know whether they are male or female.

While some do not show clear signs of their gender until they mature to a certain age, there are several animals whose gender is hard to tell even after they mature, zoo officials said, adding that the gender conundrum was more profound when it came to birds.

“It is difficult to tell the gender of many exotic birds, since they stay in cages most of the time and it is very difficult for us to catch them. Same is the case with some reptiles,” said Dr MA Hakeem, Assistant Director, NZP.

The gender of the recently born three African lion cubs is yet to be identified as officials fear that the lioness may attack the cubs if any human ventures too close to them, he said. However, it was not a matter of concern since the gender signs would show once they mature, he added.

A herd of deer is also not something the zoo officials can easily pick on for identification of gender. “Most of them look similar, and the number is vast, packed together and moving constantly. It is tough to tell their gender,” said Dr Hakeem.

While there is no third gender in animals, the officials said it is just a matter of not being able to identify the gender of some animals. And since it was imperative for the zoo records to list all animals with their gender, these 550-odd animals have been put in the ‘Unidentified’ sex category.