The ailing tigers at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) appear to have contracted virulent strains of bacteria and some 30 antibiotics and anti-bacterials are failing to counter them. The cause of this resistance may have its roots in drug-intensive poultry farming practices, say veterinary scientists.

At a meeting held at the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHVB) on Friday, veterinarians felt that heavy administering of antibiotics to broiler chicken (that used to be fed to the tigers) could have made the pathogens in the birds' system tolerant to various drugs, M.N. Jayakumar, Member-Secretary, Zoo Authority of Karnataka, told The Hindu.

Lab tests

Indeed, results of laboratory tests on E. coli and salmonella obtained from the infected tigers at the IAHVB showed that the bacteria are sensitive to only one broad-spectrum antibiotic: Imipenem, which costs Rs. 3,000 per gm in the market.

Anti-slaughter Bill

Dr. Jayakumar has asked a team of veterinarians to come up with the best alternative to beef in case the proposed anti-cattle slaughter Bill is implemented. “The vets have to keep in mind the nutrition and calorific requirement of the big cats,” he said.

Chicken and eggs — which used to be fed to the big cats once a week — have been removed from their diet entirely after it was concluded that poultry was the source of the salmonella and E. coli infection. The diet now comprises the more reliable beef, said Bannerghatta zoo officials.

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