Sarishma, the leopard cub at Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, died on Saturday morning. A month away from her first birthday, the cub succumbed to a viral infection called feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), common among domestic cats but known to infect wild feline species as well.
The cub was seen capering around with her twin Sarang and mother Sheena in the open enclosure housing the three creatures on Friday, and her dire condition on Saturday morning came as a shock to the staff.
She was lying still on her back in the rain and they rushed her to the Zoo hospital, said veterinarian Jacob Alexander.
The mortality rate for cubs below the age of one is very high, as the virus is resilient, aggressive and infects rapidly by shutting down the body’s immune system.
It is also known as feline distemper or cat plague. Moreover, it is highly contagious and symptoms have started show in the other inhabitants of the enclosure, Sarang and Sheena.
Zoo authorities are on contingency mode as two officials from the Chief Disease Investigation office were called on Saturday itself to ascertain the sudden cause of death.
They had already administered a booster dose for the twin, Sarang, who was on heavy doses of antibiotics, said Zoo Director B. Joseph.
Officials have also rescheduled the duty of the keepers.
It is suspected that the animals were infected because they are the ones in close proximity to visitors of the zoo, being in an open enclosure.