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Ten tigers die at Nandankanan Zoo

By Prafulla Das

NANDANKANAN (ORISSA), JULY 5. In a shocking incident, as many as 10 tigers, seven of them precious white tigers, have died in the Nandankanan Zoological Park situated on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. The first death occurred on Tuesday evening, while three tigers died in the night. Six died today.

Mysterious disease

Though the exact cause of death is not yet known, doctors at the Orissa Veterinary College (OVC), Bhubaneswar, as well as senior forest officials in-charge of the zoological park said the deaths could have been due to tripanosomiasis a parasitic infection, which is endemic in nature and is spread by a particular type of fly.

All the 10 were full grown tigers and belonged to the age group of eight to 13 years. Two more tigers are showing symptoms of illness.

All the victims belonged to a group of 17 tigers which were administered the Beneril injection, a preventive medicine. While a tiger named Sagar was administered the injection on Sunday, the remaining 16 were given the medicine on Monday morning on an empty stomach. Sagar was the first to die.

Sagar was given the injection after he fell ill, while the other big cats were given the shot as a preventive measure. The park had a total of 54 tigers before these deaths.

The Director of the Zoological Park, Mr. B.C. Prusty, however, claimed that there was nothing wrong with the injection. A five- member specialist committee of veterinary doctors, has been formed to ascertain the cause of the deaths of the big cats. Samples would also be sent outside the State for analysis, he said.

Dr. A.T. Rao, Professor of Pathology in the OVC, who conducted the post-mortem on four tigers said that a possibility was that the preventive medicine was administered when the infection had reached its final stage.

The Chief Minister, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, and the Forest and Environment Minister, Mr. A.P. Singh, visited the zoo. At a high level meeting of forest officials the Chief Minister, directed the authorities to take all possible measures to check the spread of the ``epidemic''.

Nandankanan, which is famous worldwide for breeding the maximum number of white tigers, was closed to the public after it was extensively damaged by the super cyclone in October last year. The park was opened to the public on April 1 this year. The zoo has been under cloud for sometime now. A tiger had come out of its enclosure and killed a man outside the park boundary early this year.

Expressing concern over the death of the tigers, the secretary of the Wildlife Association of Orissa, Mr. Biswajit Mohanty, said that ``the zoo authorities should have sought immediate expert advice from outside the State and abroad instead of relying on the local doctors. This may have saved many tigers.''

The issue was also raised in the State Assembly by Mr. Maheswar Mohanty, Biju Janata Dal MLA from Puri, who demanded a reply from the Forest and Environment Minister.

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