Lioness dies of suspected Coronavirus infection at Vandalur zoo

Nine more lions test positive, second samples sent for testing

June 04, 2021 01:31 pm | Updated 04:16 pm IST - CHENNAI

File photograph of a lion safari at the zoo. Photograph used for representational purposes only

File photograph of a lion safari at the zoo. Photograph used for representational purposes only


A 9-year-old lioness has died of suspected Coronavirus infection at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur, on the outskirts of the city. Nine more lions have also tested positive.

According to a release from the zoo, five lions housed in Animal House 1 of the Safari Park area reported anorexia (loss of appetite) and occasional coughing. The in- house veterinary team took immediate action to investigate and treat the animals as per protocol.

A team of experts was also deputed by TANUVAS to join the veterinarians of AAZP in investigating and deciding the further course of treatment regimen. Blood samples were sent to TANUVAS and Nasal swab, Rectal swab and faecal samples of 11 lions were sent to National Institute of High Security Diseases (NIHSAD) Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, which is one of the 4 designated institutes authorized to take up SARS CoV-2 testing in captive animals.

One lioness, (Neela, Female, Age 9 years) housed in Animal House no 2 at the Safari area of the zoo died on June 3, at around 6.15 p.m. The said lioness had been asymptotic and showed some nasal discharge only the day before and had been symptomatically treated immediately.

As per the laboratory test results furnished by the Institute, samples in respect of nine lions out of the 11 sent, have tested positive for SARS CoV-2. In order to ascertain whether or not the reported findings are in the nature of false positives or the animal could have died of comorbidities, samples have also been sent on June 4 to the Indian Veterinary Research institute Bareilly and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

The Park has been scrupulously following the precautionary measures prescribed in various advisories issued by the Central Zoo Authority, the Central and the State governments from time to time. Prophylactic measures for the felids, mustelids, viverrids and primates as arrived at in consultation with the expert team of TANUVAS, Veterinarians of Hyderabad Zoo and also Bronx Zoo, are being adhered to.

All the lions which have tested positive are under close observation and on prescribed treatment regimen by the in-house veterinary team in close co-ordination with expert team from TANUVAS. All animal keepers and helpers for these animal houses are vaccinated against Covid-19. Separate set of animal keepers are engaged for each group of lions. PPE Kits are mandatory for the animal keepers, veterinary doctors and field staff visiting the area, the release said.

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