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Monday, December 7, 1998 Published at 06:41 GMT

World: South Asia

Prayers and pills to save Vrindra the lion

Vrindra's plight has become the focus of a local campaign

When officials at Lucknow zoo in northern India found Vrindra the lion eight months ago, they thought there was little hope the severely crippled 11 year old big cat would survive.

Jim Kennedy reports on Vrindra's plight
Now though he is at the centre of a controversy about whether or not he should be put out of his misery.

Years of mistreatment in an illegal travelling theatre had left Vrindra suffering from painful injuries to the backbone and hindlegs. The cage he had been kept in since he was a cub was so small he couldn't even stand upright.

The High Court has ruled that the big cat can be put down by lethal injection, but a vigorous campaign to keep the lion alive has forced the zoo to have change of heart.

Kill or cure

[ image: Open wide - it's medicine time]
Open wide - it's medicine time
Rather than putting Vrindra down, the zoo has resorted to homeopathic medicine in an effort to improve his health.

After initial treatment failed the High Court of Uttar Pradesh decided it would be kinder to put him down than let him continue in agony. But the zoo was swamped with so many appeals for a stay of execution that they had a change of heart.

[ image: Now it only hurts when I walk - so why bother?]
Now it only hurts when I walk - so why bother?
So every day zoo vet, Utkarsh Shukla, uses a syringe to squirt a concoction of alternative medicine into the Vrindra's mouth. It's a little haphazard, but there are some encouraging signs.

Vrindra is no longer in constant pain, although he still has problems walking.

And while the vets do their best, Vrindra's plight has attracted such local attention that the people of Lucknow have begun offering prayers at local temples in aid of his recovery.

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