Biosafety measures in place early in State zoos

A staffer wearing a mask while cleaning an enclosure at Mysuru zoo.

A staffer wearing a mask while cleaning an enclosure at Mysuru zoo.  

This was after reports from Hong Kong of a pet testing positive

While the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) sent an advisory to all zoological gardens on Monday to take precautions in the wake of a tiger testing positive for the novel coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, authorities in Karnataka have been on alert for over a fortnight now.

All zoos in the State have had Biosafety measures in place ever since reports emerged from Hong Kong of a pet animal testing positive in March.

The Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK) made it mandatory for regular thermal screening of the staff, including officials, animal keepers and various suppliers, and having them go through multiple layers of safety measures such as maintaining social distance, using protective gear, including masks and gloves, and completely sanitising the premises.

ZAK member-secretary B.P. Ravi told The Hindu that early reports from Hong Kong were taken seriously and it was decided to step up the Biosafety measures across the State. Of the nine zoos in Karnataka, Mysuru zoo is one of the country’s largest, with a good collection of species.

“But we are more concerned about the primates rather than cats, as the human contact with primates like chimpanzees is more. Hence, they are vulnerable,” Mr. Ravi said. Hence, even the family members of animal keepers have been asked to strictly abide by the lockdown norms.

Any member of staff displaying symptoms such as cold and cough or slight fever has been directed to stay home. Till date, Mysuru has reported 35 COVID-19 cases and Nanjangud has been identified as a cluster and listed as a “red zone”. Hence, a few members of staff from Nanjangud have been given paid leave, Mr. Ravi said.

Animals being monitored

The behaviour of all the animals, including carnivores and primates, is being monitored, according to Mysuru zoo executive director Ajit Kulkarni. He said safety precautions and practices were being followed rigorously since the disease was zoonotic in nature.

The main entrance of the zoo and the entry gate for vehicles transporting food and essential supplies are supposed to pass through the large disinfectant mats. Mr. Kulkarni said multi-layer screening of food, particularly meat, was in place.

“Unlike in foreign zoos, there is no scope for visitors to get close to animals and feed them here. The animals have minimal contact with keepers and no contact with visitors. This has helped us check diseases,” he said. The zoo has been closed to visitors since March 15.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 11:40:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/biosafety-measures-in-place-early-in-state-zoos/article31274035.ece

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