It is suffering from a protozoan infection rarely seen in captive lions and is not responding to treatment

A lioness is suffering from a rare protozoan disease, giving sleepless nights to the caretakers and officials at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park here.

Despite efforts by the zoo authorities to bring it back to normal, the animal is not responding to the treatment as the disease is said to be in an advanced stage.

The life span of a lion in the wild is 15 years and in captivity it can extend up to 20 years. It is learnt that the authorities have drawn blood samples and sent them to a private diagnostic laboratory in the city.

A parasitic infection was confirmed in the test. Further tests in Chennai had confirmed the disease as babaesiosis, a protozoan infection rarely seen in captive lions.

The zoo authorities are said to have spent Rs.2 lakh on various medicines, but the disease was already in an advanced stage and the drugs failed to have the desired effect. Some expensive health tonics were also procured from Germany.

“The five-year-old lioness has become paraplegic and is dragging her hind limbs. We have given it various allopathic drugs and now are also trying ayurvedic medicines. The scarcity of animals in the wild is resulting in in-breeding and leading to various diseases,” zoo curator G. Ramalingam told The Hindu when his attention was drawn to the issue on Thursday.

He underlined the importance of separation of genetically similar male/female species to prevent disorders. Recessive genes would prevail otherwise, causing genetic aberrations.

“We are trying to get two pairs of lions, one from Hyderabad and the other from Gujarat,” Mr. Ramalingam said.

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